The African Elephant exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo features a a simulated earth bank watering hole surrounded by trees, brush, shade structures, and cliffs.

Milwaukee County Zoo Adventure Africa Phase 1: Elephants and Mixed Specie Exhibits

A commitment to improving the zoo’s elephant exhibit, which began in 2013, was finally realized in May 2019. On May 4th, the Milwaukee County Zoo opened phase one of Adventure Africa. The new 1.6-acre outdoor exhibit includes a variety of enrichment activities such as a simulated earth bank watering hole large enough to accommodate three elephants, along with feeding and enrichment walls. Other amenities include a twelve-foot tall faux tree with a built-in rub brush, a shower that is controlled by the elephants, and multiple shade structures. A patron view pavilion was also constructed as part of the project. The pavilion allows zoo visitors to interact with staff and learn how these animals are cared for by a passionate team of veterinarians and zoo professionals.

The new exhibit also offers a 20,000 sq. ft. Elephant Care Center complete with a “recreation room”. Two types of soft flooring (both sand and padded) are used within the space. The Center has five stalls and additional enrichment space which offers hanging hay barrels for exercising elephant trunk muscles.

Other exhibits in phase one include the African Forest and Impala Plains mixed species exhibits. African Forest is home to guineafowl, bongo, and duiker while impala and zebra graze within Impala Plains.

Milwaukee County Zoo & COST’s Partnership

The general contractor (VJS) hired COST to provide shop drawings and engineering for the rockwork and large simulated pond. Prior to construction, a ¼” scale model was built for review and approval by the zoo team. Once approved, COST crews mobilized to the site and constructed the watering hole (structural pool with an earth bank texture), the rub brush tree, three termite mound replicas, and associated rockwork. The relationship between COST and the Milwaukee County Zoo dates back to 1957 when the original zoo habitats were constructed.

The project team included local architect HGA and Seattle-based exhibit design firm PJA Architects.

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