African elephant on the range in the Cleveland Zoo.

Meerkats and Pachyderms at the Cleveland Zoo

Zoos are not my thing. Ever since I was peed on by a hippopotamus at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. as a young child, I’ve tried to avoid them. But as a parent, I’ve had occasion to visit many zoos around the US, and even around the world.

I’ve accompanied my children to zoos in New York City, San Diego, Buenos Aires, and the Czech Republic. I’ve seen many zoo animal habitats, some more humane and pleasant than others. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s African Elephant Crossing is one of the best zoo animal habitats both for its state-of-the-art facilities and for its educational programs.

African elephant on the range in the Cleveland Zoo.

The Cleveland Zoo’s African Elephant Crossing opened to the public on May 5, 2011. Built around the shell of the old 1950s era Pachyderm Building and elephant yard, the new elephant habitat is a five-acre, state-of-the-art facility and can accomodate a socially mixed herd of males, females, and youngsters. Currently, five adult females and one adult live here, although they share the exhibit with meerkats, naked mole rats, nine different types of birds and an African rock python.

Cleveland Zoo - African Elephant Crossing Exhibit

The Sydell L. Miller Elephant Care & Visitor Center is where you can find the elephant’s indoor home and the naked mole rat and python habitats. We arrived just in time to catch the tail end of an elephant training session.Elephant training at the African Elephant Crossing exhibit in the Cleveland Zoo.

As it was late afternoon by the time we got to there, we missed the chance to see the elephants crossing into range. (Tip: plan to visit the African Elephant Crossing exhibit in the morning or early afternoon.) Even so, we enjoyed our chance to get up close and personal with these majestic animals, and with the not-so-majestic but certainly very amusing meerkats.

Cleveland Zoo - Meerkats

Cleveland Zoo - Meerkat Habitat

Cleveland Zoo Highlights

Make a day of it.  In addition to the African Elephant Crossing, the Cleveland Zoo offers a number of interesting and immersive experiences:

  • The Rainforest – See Bornean orangutans, endangered ocelots, sloths and more at a two-acre, two-story exhibit that showcases more than 10,000 plants and 600 animals in naturalistic settings.
  • Australian Adventure – Feed nectar to colorful parrots and admire koalas and tree kangaroos, roam Wallaby Walkabout, hop aboard the Boomerang Railway, or set children free in the 55-foot-tall Yagga tree play area.
  • Live Animal Shows – Educational and entertaining, shows engage visitors of all ages with a character-based theme and all-star animal cast. For older children, there is a chance to get in on the act in a Show Cameo with Professor Wylde! that includes a backstage tour to meet the animal stars and see where they live.
  • Summer Day Camp – Kids 5-14 can attend week-long sessions filled with opportunities to see Zoo animals and exhibits up close.

The Cleveland Zoo is a fun place to visit – with or without kids – and even non-zoo-lovers can appreciate observing animals in these exemplary natural habitats.

Visit the Cleveland Zoo

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
3900 Wildlife Way
Cleveland, Ohio 44109

Disclosure: Our visit to Cleveland was hosted by Positively Cleveland. 

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