It Takes a Village to Build a Forest!

Posted November 9, 2021

Students from Cincinnati Zoo’s Zoo Academy Create a Jungle for Elephants

CINCINNATI, OH (November 9, 2021) — Elephants at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden got to forage, investigate, and eventually trample a special forest that Zoo Academy students built out of bamboo in the elephant yard yesterday.

“This kind of novel enrichment is great for the elephants, and putting it together gives Zoo Academy students the opportunity to actually stand in the elephants’ environment and make something that’s going to benefit them,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s head elephant keeper, and a Zoo Academy graduate (class of 1991), Eric Duning. “They also get to stick around to watch the elephants enjoy tearing apart what they just created!”

The Zoo Academy, a unique high school for juniors and seniors interested in science, plants, and animals, is located in the Zoo’s Education Center and has been part of the Cincinnati Public School system since 1975. Many staff members, including Duning, attended the school and mentor current students by offering hands-on labs in their departments.

“They did a great job building the bamboo forest and were able to get the job done a lot faster than if the keeper staff did it alone,” said Duning.  “It’s also fun to be able to say that you stood in the elephant yard! Very few people get to do that.”

Activities like this fulfill Cincinnati Zoo’s mission is to bring people “close enough to care” about elephants and other animals.  There will be even more opportunities to get close to Asian elephants when the Zoo completes Elephant Trek in 2024.  Elephant Trek will be five times the size of the current elephant habitat and will be home to a herd of 8-10 of these magnificent creatures! Please consider making a donation to help build Elephant Trek.