Monkeying around at Akron Zoo

Heather Beyer

New rare species’ exhibits top changes

A white-handed gibbon lounges in the afternoon shade. The gibbon and coati are a relative of the great ape and are two new species of animals introduced to Tiger Valley at the Akron Zoo.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Akron is now home to white-handed gibbons and coati. These rare animal species are on display at the Akron Zoo as a part of a recent expansion.

In May, the zoo opened its Legends of the Wild area, featuring 16 new exhibits, which is home to 20 different species and more than 380 total animals.

Among the featured animals are snow leopards, jaguars, Andean condors, Chilean flamingos, Himalayan tahrs, capybaras, ring-tailed lemurs, black and white ruffed lemurs and at least four different species of bats.

The Akron Zoo, home to over 700 animals from around the world, is open 361 days a year.

“Where in the world can you get this close to animals and live to tell about it?” said David Barnhardt, director of marketing and guest services.

Many animals can be seen through a single pane of glass.

“All the animals are so close that you can practically touch them,” guest services employee Michael Tornifilo said. “That is what makes it unique.”

The opening of Legends of the Wild has been the largest expansion in the zoo’s 52-year history.

“If you haven’t been to the zoo for a while, you haven’t seen the zoo,” Barnhardt said.

In the past five years the park has made several improvements: a new farmland contact area, the Wild Prairie exhibit, the Barnhardt Family Welcome Center, the Lehner Family Zoo Gardens, the Penguin Point habitat and additional parking lots.

“As we grow, we are reaching out to everyone,” Barnhardt said.

Legends of the Wild also highlights stories once told among native cultures long ago. Visitors can learn several fascinating legends about the animals on exhibit. They can hear the tale of the Andean condor and how they were once thought to bring up the sun every morning.

“I have yet to see a child leave the exhibit with a frown on their face,” Tornifilo said.

The park still has many zoo-goers’ favorites. Children enjoyed seeing the sika deer, which are native to Asia. Young visitors to the zoo pointed and cried “Bambi” with exuberance.

“I would recommend the zoo to my friends and family,” Uniontown resident Doris Fusion said.

Summer hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is $8 for adults, $6.50 for senior citizens, $5 for children ages 2 to 14 and parking is $1.50. Children under 2 are free.

Contact general assignment reporter Heather Beyer at [email protected].