A touch of Africa is coming to the Midwest.
Long in the planning stages, officials at the St. Louis Zoo have finally unveiled plans for WildCare Park, a 425-acre facility they hope to turn into a safari for guests to explore.
The $230 million project won’t open until 2027, but some of the animals will start arriving next year. That’s part of the process to have the park ready to go in 5 years.
“Acquiring animals from other accredited facilities and building appropriate animal social groups takes time,” Martha Fischer, general curator at WildCare Park, said in a release. “We’re planning to receive the first animals at WildCare Park next year and we’ll gradually increase the number of animals and species over time. For the public opening, we’re primarily focusing on endangered ungulates — hoofed mammals — as well as birds and other threatened species.”
Animals – Lots Of Animals
And animals they will have. The initial list of what to expect includes:
- Grevy’s zebra
- Greater kudu
- Roan antelope
- Somali wild ass
- Przewalski’s horse
- Scimitar-horned oryx
- Nile lechwe
- Gazelle (various species)
- White rhino
- Sable antelope
- Bactrian camel
“We have selected species that are most likely to thrive in a multi-species environment and to coexist in harmony with the native wildlife that are living at WildCare Park,” said Fischer. “We have chosen species that will benefit the most from large living spaces… and allow them to display the full array of their natural behaviors.”
But there is a lot more to the park than land and animals.
“There are a lot of complexities associated with building a large zoological park like this. The enormity and importance — size and scope — are incredible,” said Jo-Elle Mogerman, WildCare Park director. “We want to do this right so that it’s sustainable for generations to come.”
Part of the delay is attributed to the pandemic, Mogerman said, as supply chain issues slowed the ability to gather some of the basics to get started.
Plenty Of Activities
Setting up the park is one thing, but designing it for the best experience for visitors is another. Park officials have plenty of big plans.
Two 30-minute safaris will take visitors through the park in vehicles that will hold 30 to 40 passengers. The woodland safari will take guests close to rhinos, antelope, and other ungulates. The savanna safari will take them among up to 20 giraffes as well as zebras, waterbucks, and oryx.
There will also be a path for guests to wander on their own with animals all around them.
The park will include an 11-story observation tower where guests can ride to the top and observe the park with 360-degree views. Visitors will be able to take in the St. Louis Arch from the tower, as well as the Mississippi River and other landmarks in the region.
Visitors can also upgrade to a premium safari that will take place in an open-air truck that seats no more than 12 people. It’s a more intimate and off-road experience than the larger vehicles.
Visitors will be able to pay a fee to get the chance to feed the giraffes and get up close to their massive tongues. There will also be the opportunity for glamping, with visitors allowed to spend the night on-site in one of 10 cabins.
Fisher told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the fun part of the safaris will be the unscripted activity of the animals on each trip.
“Like on a safari, being able to have the animals drive the storytelling for that day, that’s what’s going to be the cool and amazing part of it,” Fischer said.
Admission to the park will be free for St. Louis County residents as part of an initiative passed by voters in 2018 to develop the park. Fees for non-residents will be determined once the park gets closer to opening.
For more information on some of the most popular zoos in the country, check out these articles: