The Wilds

As our guide pulled the bus through the Jurassic Park-lite gate and electric fencing, she said that The Wilds nature conservancy is equal in land area to all the zoos in North America combined. About 3.5 hours south of Cleveland, its 10,000 acres was donated from an American Electric Power surface mine, and houses a variety of endangered animals from Asia, Africa and North America. Grace and I went there for their “sunset tour” on our day trip yesterday.

Here’s the picture dump:

Unfortunately, The Wilds’s website doesn’t have a catalog of the animals they have, so I can’t say that these pictures are of, beyond a generic, “that’s a giraffe, that’s a rhino, that’s something with horns”. A lot of the animals are actually extinct or nearly so in their native regions; the species only live in captivity, though there’s always hope for breeding programs. In a number of cases, researchers know very little about these animals, and we were told that a species of deer surprised the wardens by swimming across a large lake.

As said, we went on the “sunset tour”. This is their “extended tour” package, but with a buffet-style dinner before hitting the trail in the open-air tour buses. The “extended tour” goes through all the animal enclosures, and has stops at some of the veternary facilities. For example, in the rhino station, we saw a very heavy gauge “hydraulic tamer” that immobilizes a rhino by pressing it between big metal bars, so that vets can, say, trim its toenails or draw blood for tests. There was a smaller, padded tamer in a different building for smaller animals. Both machines are better, safer, less stressful choices than knocking out the animal with tranquilizer darts.

One of the two male rhinos was at the rhino station that day. It’s a former zoo animal that received a lot of touching by its zookeepers, so it was docile enough to let the busload of visitors pet it through the fencing. Amusingly, after half the group touched one side, the rhino turned around so people could pet the other side. Intentional or not?

Shortly after leaving the rhino station, a couple of rhinos were too close to that zone’s gate to let the buses through. One of the handlers drove up in a jeep, got out and dumped buckets of feed a bit futher down the road, drawing the animals away from the gate. He did the same thing a few times further down the road.

The sunset tour also gives good photographic light, though that’s possibly more apparent towards the end of the tour in these pictures. The air is cooler than mid-day tours, and the animals are more willing to wander around. I think, also, that’s is feeding time, so their closer to the roads. We’re told that next year, they’ll have three species of carnivores (cheetahs and two types of wild dog; they’re all herbivores right now), so we’ll come back then, but maybe a month earlier than we did, so as to get a half-hour more light towards the end of the tour.

2 Responses to “The Wilds”

  1. Danny Says:

    Where do they go in the winter? I don’t think these animals are all adapted to the cold weather of an Ohio winter.

    If you liked this reserve, you should really go on an African safari when you have the time.

  2. Cheng Says:

    Some of the facilities that we toured were for keeping the animals during winter. The giraffes, for example, go indoors once the temperature drops below 45F or something like that, no matter at what point in the year that happens.

    Other animals are perfectly happy outdoors in winter. The various deer species, I think, as well as a couple others, like bison.