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Highlights and History

THE WILDS: FACTS AND FIGURES

 

OVERVIEW

The Wilds is a private, non-profit safari park and conservation center that combines cutting-edge conservation science and education programs with hands-on experiences and one-of-a-kind adventures that include ziplining, horseback riding, fishing and more. Located in southeast Ohio, the Wilds is home to rare and endangered species from around the globe living in natural, open-range habitats.
 

LOCATION

14000 International Road, Cumberland, OH 43732
 

PROPERTY

The property encompasses 9,154 acres or approximately 14 square miles and includes 2,000 acres of pastures and a 27-acre Carnivore Conservation Center. The Wilds is designated an Audubon Important Bird Area so the property includes a birding station with covered lookout as well as a butterfly habitat with hiking trails, more than 15 miles of mountain bike and hiking trails and approximately 100 lakes.
 

MISSION

The mission of the Wilds is to advance conservation through science, education and personal experience.
 

VISION

The Wilds vision is based upon a core ideology that values: commitment to and respect for nature, social and scientific relevance; and innovative, entrepreneurial and creative approaches in all we do.
 

HOURS OF OPERATION

The Wilds is open 7 days a week during the months of May through September, Saturdays and Sundays in October (including holidays).  The first tours depart at 10 a.m. and the last tour departs at 4 p.m.  Some opportunities including Wild Zipline Safari, Wildside Tour and lodging accommodations at Nomad Ridge and the Lodge are available daily in October, see specific activity information for availability.
 

 
 STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS

Operations at the Wilds are carried out by 31 full-time and 3 part-time employees. Seasonal volunteers are also an important part of the Wilds operations in helping lead tours, setting up for special events, or collecting seed for restoration ecology projects.
 

ANIMAL POPULATION

Thirty-one rare and endangered species representing more than 350 mammals from around the world, including Sichuan takin, Grevy's zebras, cheetahs, giraffes and southern white rhinoceros, make up the animal population at the Wilds.
In 2011 more than 50 animals were born at the Wilds, four of which were southern white rhinos; a Wilds record for a single year.
Three of the rhinos were particularly significant as they are the only fourth generations born in human care. The white rhino herd at the Wilds is the only one known to be producing fourth generation offspring.
 

HISTORY

1940s - 80s Area is surface mined.
1971 Federal Reclamation Act required contouring, topsoil, and erosion controlplantings.
Mid 1970s The Ohio Zoological Commission forms. Spurred into action by the numerous zoos in the state (Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo,Akron and the – now defunct - Kings Island Wild Animal Habitat) Governor Jim Rhodes created a commission to develop a plan for how Ohio could support these cultural and tourism (and eventually scientific) organizations.
Late 1970s Initial concept of the Wilds forms as a public-private partnership involving the Ohio Departments of Natural Resources and Development, the Ohio zoos, and the private sector.
1984 Formally incorporated in 1984 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit under the name The International Center for the Preservation of Wild Animals, Inc. (ICPWA). ICPWA received a gift of approximately 9,154 acres of land from the Central Ohio Coal Company, a subsidiary of American Electric Power Company.
1989 Johnson Visitor Center completed (with geothermal heat).
1991 Last cut of the Big Muskie (huge surface mining dragline - machine) to the east of the Wilds.
1992 First species, Przewalski’s wild horses, released into pastures.
1994 The Wilds opens to the public for tours.
1997 Day and overnight education camps begin.
1998 Overlook Café and Gift Shop opens.
2000 The Robert W. Teater Conservation Education Camp (yurt camp) opens.
2001 The Wilds and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium partnership begins.
2005 American Burying Beetle Facility constructed. Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2) forms.
2007 Mid-sized Carnivore Conservation Center opens.
2009 Nomad Ridge opens to public. Southern white rhino calf becomes the first known 4th generation born in human care.
2010 Conservation Science Training Center opens. Persian onagers born at the Wilds were the first wild equids ever produced
through artificial insemination.
2011 Zipline, horseback riding and fishing safaris are added to the Wilds experience and generate additional revenue to support the mission.

 

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY AND FIELD CONSERVATION

The Wilds currently maintains 31 species of animals, 20 of which are part of programs managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and 13 are federally listed endangered species.

 

BREEDING PROGRAMS

The unique environment at the Wilds results in successful breeding programs.
• In 2011, more than 50 animals were born at the Wilds including four southern white rhinos. Three of the rhino births were particularly significant since they are the only fourth generation rhinos born in human care.
The Wilds was involved in developing the AZA’s sustainability plan for the endangered cheetah. Since the Carnivore Conservation Center was built at the Wilds in 2007 there have been four litters of cheetahs born there (11 of 15 surviving).
• Research at the Wilds has directly impacted conservation breeding programs. Tools like artificial insemination provide more options for genetic management.
o Two endangered Persian onager foals born in 2010 were the first wild
equids ever produced by artificial insemination.
o Three endangered banteng calves were born from artificial insemination,
two from banked semen from sires that were no longer alive.
• Nearly 60 acres are set aside for the bachelor male Przewalkski’s wild horse herd, another endangered species, allowing continued breeding when other facilities stopped breeding due to lack of space for offspring.
• In 2007 an endangered scimitar-horned oryx, born at the Wilds, was part of a group returned to Tunisia as part of a reintroduction program.
• The Conservation Medicine department actively studies issues surrounding stress
and reproduction of ungulate species.

 

REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL FIELD CONSERVATION

The Wilds is a founding member of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2), a consortium of five very large AZA institutions dedicated to applying combined land and scientific resources to population sustainability.
The Wilds maintains a breeding colony of American burying beetles and has provided hundreds of beetles to support the efforts to reintroduce this federally protected endangered species to the state of Ohio.
• The Conservation Medicine department has worked with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium staff to develop ground-breaking techniques to help understand the health of freshwater mussels, one of the fastest declining animal groups on the continent, and factors affecting the success of mussel conservation efforts. The Wilds, along with their partners including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have reintroduced thousands of mussels into Ohio waterways representing the largest release of a federally endangered species in the state of Ohio.
o In 2011, the Wilds and their partners won the AZA’s North America
Conservation Award, which recognizes efforts toward regional habitat
preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild.
• Recent surveys conducted by the Wilds and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on eastern hellbenders in southeast Ohio have determined their population has declined by 80 percent in the wild. In response a partnership consisting of government agencies, zoos, soil and water conservation districts, a land trust, and education institutions was formed to aid in the recovery of hellbenders. The Wilds is involved in the continued monitoring and assessment of their health in the wild to better understand the threats to this endangered species.
The Wilds is home to North America’s largest herd of the unique Sichaun takin. Research done on the takin herds at the Wilds has resulted in the development of techniques used by researchers working with this species in its native China. This is a collaborative project with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Smithsonian and Chinese partners.
The Wilds, working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Cleveland Zoo, has reestablished the trumpeter swan and osprey to Ohio.

 

RESTORATION ECOLOGY

The Wilds is a living laboratory that is helping us understand how ecosystems can recover from significant impacts like surface mining. Long-term ecological research has been underway at the Wilds for 10 years. These processes are working to understand
local biodiversity methods to increase plant biodiversity, wetland restoration techniques, tree planting within damaged landscapes, demonstration of how marginal land can be used for sustainable agricultural practices and ecological recovery following large-scale disturbance.
Current projects include prairie establishment, reforestation initiatives, invasive species management, restoration of original forest habitat and wetland restoration. A current partnership with Muskingum University involves surveying and monitoring imperiled populations of grassland nesting birds. The Wilds is uniquely suited to provide habitat for these species that are otherwise in decline throughout the state.
• Restoration ecology projects have resulted in:
o Planting more than 25 acres of native forest species
o Planting more than 354 acres of prairie grasslands with plans to complete a total of 750
acres within the next two years
o Establishment of a 60-acre study site to compare biomass production and carbon
sequestration in prairies
o Restoration of a 40-acre area into a high quality wetland refuge that will support a wide
diversity of vegetation, waterfowl and aquatic wildlife
o Restoration of 35 acres of original remnant forest
o Restoration of prairie habitat has resulted in a 250% increase in local butterfly abundance
and diversity of species

 

CONSERVATION SCIENCE TRAINING

The science team contributes to the collaborative dissemination of conservation research and participates in cooperative projects with a number of universities, zoological institutions, federal agencies, and other partners. The new Conservation Science Training Center is an innovative research center, allowing the Wilds to work collaboratively with these institutions to initiate long-term projects in the environmental and conservation sciences. Built in 2010 with grant funds, it serves as an asset to Appalachian Ohio and beyond by drawing students, scientists, and conservation professionals to the region for
unique research, cognitive and training opportunities.
• Conservation Science Training involves:
o University partners including The Ohio State University, University of Akron, Muskingum
University, West Liberty University, West Virginia University, California University of
Pennsylvania, Otterbein University, Miami University, Grove City PA College
o Research topics such as microbial interactions, forest restoration, aquatic ecology, plant
community composition and molecular ecology
The Wilds Conservation Medicine Residency Program is one of only 19 accredited zoological medicine-training programs worldwide.

 

CONSERVATION AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS

The Wilds provides immersive educational and formal training opportunities through on-site education programs.  These programs include Day Ventures and Overnight camps for school groups that incorporate “hands on” and inquiry based learning techniques for programs aligned to Ohio’s Academic Content Standards and programs for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts designed to meet requirements so that they may obtain their environmental or outdoor based badges.   The Wilds also hosts summer camps for kids that highlight the Wilds’ conservation efforts.  One such camp is our conservation career camp, Dirty Wilds Jobs, which allows high school aged students to learn from trained professionals in conservation science fields.   Families can get involved too with our Family Camps available in the summer.  Also offered are pre-service teacher workshops as well as adult training opportunities.