Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ohio Safari

I really don't know how I had never heard of The Wilds before, but I hadn't, and neither had my family. I recently read about it and learned that it opened in 1994, and visitors are welcome. Over the last 14 years it has progressively added more animals to their menagerie, and grown to become the largest conservation site in the entire US, and one of the largest in the world... right here in Ohio!

The goal of The Wilds is to advance science and conservation through experience, so my parents and I decided to take part in that experience.

Our adventure took us to Cumberland, Ohio - home of the 10,000 acre conservation site. We weren't entirely sure of what to expect, but I was like a giddy child. We decided to go on the open air safari rather than the closed air conditioned one, which was a great pick, minus the dust from the roads... but I guess that's part of the safari experience.

As the two and a half hour tour weaved around the landscape there were points in time where I wondered if I was even in Ohio. The land was spectacular and the animals were well tended to and seemed content. The hills rolled and it was speckled with lakes as well as various species in separated enclosures.

The first animals we spotted were deer at a lake and then we saw some Persian onager, which look like donkeys. They are threatened due to hunting in their native lands and have fortunately found a lovely new home. Unfortunately they are also one of two animals at the center that are branded because they will rip out each other's ear tags.

The safari ride was very informative. Our guide told us about the struggles that the animals face and what they were doing to help them repopulate. Many of the animals are from zoos and being studied for various reasons or are working to be reintroduced to their homelands.

Here are a few other interesting things that I learned:

  • Przewalski's wild horses are the only true wild horses that have never been domesticated. There are less than 250 in the wild. They were very beautiful to watch and I especially loved seeing them groom each other, which looked so affectionate. 
  • Some rhinos will sharpen their horn using trees and rocks to form it the way they like. They also mark their paths with dung to know where they have been and often go in the same place. 
  • Many of the giraffes above didn't have to travel too far because two have died from urinary infections at the Columbus zoo, so they are currently being evaluated. 
  • The African dogs will work in teams of two chasing their prey until they are tired and then another pair will take over the job. This continues until the animal is tired and then it is repeatedly bitten and disemboweled while still alive. Our guide said a human would not last 10 minutes in their inclosure. 
  • The female cheetahs pick their mates. There is a female that will soon be choosing out of 6 suitors. As of now they have three females and two males. The other four males are going through their quarantine and preparation. 
  • Some of the beautiful Scimitar-horned oryx have been reintroduced to their native Tunisia. If they lose their horns they do not grow back. One oryx had lost both of its horns, while another only had one. 
  • There hasn't been a definitive study as to whether zebra stripes are white and black or actually a dark brown. Some people say they are white with black stripes since their stomachs are white. 
  • Scientists from around the world come to The Wilds to work without pay. 
  • Osprey and the Trumpeter swan have been introduced. The Osprey return to the place where they learn to fly, while the swans came from Alaska and have since made friends and brought them to The Wilds. 
Zoological centers and ecology around the world has greatly benefitted from having a program like this. It was so nice to be a part of it and see the animals up close and a great weekend activity to do with my parents. 

It made me a bit depressed that humans are encroaching on the natural habitats of these animals, but at this point people have to do what they can for preservation. The animals are truly spectacular. 


Bluefish said...

Wow...I thought I was in Africa for a moment. This park is unbelieveble amazing. A great place to help the animals and preserve what is left of them. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Nan said...

Emily -

That is too cool. I'd never heard of it, either - I'll have to visit next summer.

JoernandAllison said...

How beautiful!!!!!!!!
And in Ohio!
It sounds like you are having a wonderful adventure at home :)
It is so great to see these things happening in our country- which has that nasty anti-environment reputation!

Emily said...

You're definitely right - the park is just unbelievable. If you make it to Ohio you should check it out!

I look forward to hearing about your trip next summer! I know you and Luke will love it.

My trip home has been great - relaxing with exciting moments. I'm also happy that there is such a special place here in Ohio. It's nice to see little things the US does to contribute to the world.

MBQ said...

I love it! I want to go, I never knew that was there. So awesome.