Naples Zoo is excited to announce that our final exhibit to re-open after damage from Hurricane Irma is now complete. The Oasis exhibit had significant damage from the storm and Zoo staff has been diligently working to get the exhibit re-opened since September. The exhibit has been completely updated with all new fencing, new shade structures and a beautiful array of new plants and trees.
Like the rest of the Southwest Florida community, Naples Zoo was greatly impacted by Hurricane Irma. The Zoo incurred over $700,000 in damages and was closed for over 4 weeks. The Zoo is recovering well with the support of the community and friends from all over the world. “We are thrilled for the last exhibit damaged from the hurricane to re-open.” said Naples Zoo President and CEO Jack Mulvena. “We are very thankful for our dedicated staff, volunteers, board of directors and our donors for their commitment to our animals and botanical garden.”
The Oasis exhibit will feature a pair of critically endangered mountain bongos. Bongos are the largest of the forest antelope, these colorful creatures can weigh up to 880 lbs. In addition to loss of their forest homes, they were hunted out over a century ago in Uganda and only about 100 of these beautiful antelope remain in the wild in Kenya. But while wild populations were declining, accredited zoos had been carefully breeding mountain bongos. And in 2004, accredited zoos returned 18 bongos to the Mt. Kenya Wildlife Conservancy in Africa. The pair of bongos that guests will see at Naples Zoo were specifically matched by the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) based on their ancestry to create the greatest genetic diversity in the population over the next century. The bongos arrived this April from two different accredited zoos in Texas to contribute to the future of their species.
In addition to the bongos, guests will also be able to see another critically endangered species living with them: slender-horned gazelles. Found in the sparsely vegetated deserts of northern Africa, only a few hundred of these small gazelles remain outside zoos. A few years ago, Naples Zoo began supporting their survival by welcoming a bachelor herd. In the wild, one male will live with multiple females while groups of males will live together. One by one, the males at Naples Zoo were selected for breeding elsewhere. Recently, the SSP selected a female for the one remaining male at Naples Zoo and she will join him this summer in hopes of saving this rare desert gazelle.
A Sulcata tortoise will also be joining the herd. This desert tortoise is a northern African neighbor of the gazelles. And a pair of black crowned cranes will enjoy the new Oasis exhibit. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ lists both the tortoise and cranes as vulnerable to extinction in the wild.