Cincinnati Zoo Prioritizes Sustainability in Construction of New Elephant Trek Habitat

Posted May 1, 2024

Conservation efforts benefit Asian elephants here and in India 

CINCINNATI, OH (May 1, 2024) – Earth month may be over, but Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden continues to focus on sustainability as it builds a better home for its elephant herd.  All buildings in the new, five-acre Elephant Trek habitat will be LEED certified, all water elements will come from stormwater tanks buried under the habitat, and most of the power will come from solar panels over the Zoo’s parking lots and a new 165 kW array that will be installed on top of the elephant barn. 

Video | Photos 

“We’re capturing the rainwater that falls on the Zoo and reusing that to fill the quarter-million-gallon pool that our eight elephants will be swimming in every day and for waterfalls and streams throughout the habitat,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s VP of facilities and sustainability, Mark Fisher. “We like to joke that our elephants will walk on water, since we’re catching rainwater in tanks under Elephant Trek.” 

The million-gallon-capacity stormwater tanks aren’t just providing water for animal habitats.  They’re keeping water and sewer overflow out of the Zoo’s neighbors’ basements and the Ohio River.  AND the Zoo is saving money on utility bills! 

Water covers two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, but only a tiny percentage of it is available as clean, fresh water. The Greenest Zoo in America® and its official water sustainability sponsor Roto-Rooter continue to seek new ways to use less of this precious natural resource.  

Protecting natural resources is part of Cincinnati Zoo’s commitment to save wildlife, locally and globally.  “We’re working to promote coexistence, especially in areas where Cincinnati Zoo animals’ wild counterparts live,” said Dr. Lily Maynard, director of global conservation at the Cincinnati Zoo. “As Elephant Trek opening approaches later this year, we’re advancing our active involvement in Asian elephant conservation efforts to ensure they thrive in the wild as much as they do in our care here.” 

rendering of elephant trek
rendering of elephant trek
side view rendering of elephant trek

To that end, the Zoo worked with Conservation Initiatives* to create a game, Welcome to Harmony : Heroes of Elephantia, where you can save all the elephants of the world.  

“We explored the causes of the most human-elephant conflicts in Northeast India and were surprised to find the biggest threat is bored teenage boys! As you can imagine, their pressuring of each other to take selfies or mob elephants causes dangerous situations for both the teenagers and elephants,” said Dr. Maynard.  

The goal of the game is to redirect the teenagers and sneak some learning about what elephants need in an unconventional way. 

“In this game, players rescue Asian elephants from the clutches of wicked “Shadows” while receiving an empowering conservation message. When battling the evil Shadows, players confront their own negative behaviors, learning to become heroes who stand up for elephants,” said Dr. Maynard.  

The game, that just went live for Android platforms, aims to deepen players’ connection with these majestic creatures while promoting peaceful coexistence in regions where human-elephant conflict is common. It’s also fun, so the Zoo is encouraging people everywhere to give it a try!  

elephant trek game

Your Zoo visit supports Cincinnati Zoo’s local and global conservation initiatives. The Zoo opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. Members get Early Entry and are welcome to enter the Zoo at 9 a.m. Membership sale ends tomorrow! 

DID YOU KNOW…. You pay more than $10 less per ticket, on select days, when you purchase tickets online!  That’s a $40 savings for a family of 4! 


*Hear from the leaders of Conservation Initiatives live (virtual option too) at the Zoo next week!  Get tickets to the last Barrows Conservation Series lecture of the year. Dr. Divya Vasudev & Dr. Varun Goswami will close out the series on May 8. 

rendering of elephant trek