Binder Park Zoo breaks ground on African Tented Camps and school

Imagine the tented camp like those you would find on excursion in Africa. Now imagine them at Binder Park Zoo. Groundbreaking for the new African Tented Camps and School in Wild Africa at Binder Park Zoo will take place Sept. 25. 

Tented camps is one of the four new major exhibits the zoo announced in June. The school, not part of the original plan, grew from a donor's interest in making it part of the tented camps and now it is in the works.

The tented camps, like those one would find in Africa, are made of canvas with a permanent structure of beams and a roof.

They will be available for the public to use, both for family and group overnights. Binder Park Zoo now offers both programs but the addition of these tents with help to create a more authentic experience while providing some of the comforts of home, say zoo officials.

The tented camps will be situated along the 18-acre savanna and will feature nearby restrooms with showers as well as bunk beds for sleeping. The addition of the school will "take the overnight programs to a new level with many more educational opportunities," says Diane Thompson, Binder Park Zoo President and CEO.

Currently the African Overnights take place in the Kalahari Kitchen in Africa where there is a cement floor and screened pavilion. The new tents will have more security from the weather. The tented camps will allow the zoo to offer more family overnights than it can at this time and be able to house more people. The tented camps also will provide more privacy for each family.  

When Binder Park Zoo announced its $3 million capital campaign in June, a committee of board and community members and zoo staff had been meeting since 2013 to pull together the project. That work allowed the campaign to get off to a quick start. So far, more than $1.4 million has been raised and the campaign will continue until the goal is reached.

The campaign is divided into two parts--new exhibits and funds to maintain existing exhibits, which zoo officials are calling "Heart of the Zoo." In addition to the tented camps, the new exhibits will be for lions, bears and a tortoise named Al.

Lions are the number one requested animal by zoo goers and the new exhibit in the campaign is expected to increasie gate revenue to help the nonprofit zoo become more self-sufficient. The addition of lions at Binder Park Zoo also will allow for the Zoo to give visitors an educational awareness about the urgency to preserve this species. Once common in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe, the lion is now a protected species with numbers falling from 400,000 in the 1950’s down to an estimated 47,000 today. It can be found  only in remote places in Africa and India.

"Spending the night at the Zoo is a very unique experience and we think families are looking for these close to home opportunities for mini vacations and ways to spend time together as a family," says Thompson. "It’s also a great opportunity for groups like Boy Scouts and Girls Scout to earn badges and experience the outdoors."

More than 7 million people have visited Binder Park Zoo and an additional 500,000 have been served through outreach programs since was established in 1975.  It is located outside of Battle Creek on 433 acres of natural forests and wetlands. In the past 38 years, the Zoo has grown to be one of the leading cultural attractions in the region. 

Source: Diane Thompson, Binder Park Zoo
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