Tuesday, July 23
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NC Zoo Lifts Restrictions, Welcomes New Animals

(Scott Pelkey /Acme News)

ASHEBORO NC – You can now visit the NC Zoo without a reservation, and its just in time to catch a glimpse of the Zoo’s newest animals. On June 29th the NC Zoo announced they would resume normal operations, with no capacity limits, starting July 1st, 2021.

Both the North America and Africa entrances and parking lots will be open daily along with all indoor buildings, which includes habitats, restaurants, and gift shops. The Zoo has dropped it requirement for face coverings, but they are still required on the Giraffe Deck which is back open along with most all of the Zoo’s seasonal attractions, including the Carousel, Kaleidoscope Butterfly Garden, Treehouse Trek, and Zoofari. Air Hike which will remain closed until training new staff can be trained. Trams and busses won’t be running on the Africa side of the Zoo due to construction in July and the public picnic area at Dragonfly Pointe is closed for maintenance.

The lifting of restrictions marks the perfect time to take a trip to the NC Zoo in the summer weather. While you are there don’t forget to check out the Zoo’s newest visitors.

Six red wolf pups were welcomed to the Zoo and on June 30th. The public was invited to vote in an online poll from a list of names provided by the Zoo’s red wolf keepers. The names are based on rivers in the Southeastern U.S. where critically endangered red wolves used to range. The naming poll had over 6,500 responses.

A pair of Red Wolf pups sniff around their new home on exhibit at the NC Zoo (Scott Pelkey / Acme News)

The names of the four females, two male pups chosen were Eno, Harper, Pearl, Warrior, Fisher, Catawba. The pups were born as part of the Zoo’s red wolf breeding program. There were three litters totaling 12 pups born during three days from April 28 to April 30 (the other two litters pups’ names will be announced soon). This brings the number of red wolves currently in the Zoo’s breeding program to 35, making it the second-largest pack in the U.S. after Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.

Only 15-20 red wolves remain in the wild, and they are all in eastern North Carolina. Red wolves are considered the most endangered canid in the world.

Over in Africa, you might also get to see the zoo’s newest African bull elephant, Louie. Louie is an 18-year-old male African elephant, born April 30, 2003, at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio. On June 22, 2017, he went to the Omaha Zoo in Nebraska as part of their breeding program. Louie’s move to the North Carolina Zoo is a recommendation from the African Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The gradual process of introducing Louie to the Zoo’s herd is already underway. The keepers are hopeful that Louie and one of the Zoo’s females will produce offspring.

Photo by: NC Zoo

“The elephant team is excited to have Louie join our herd. He has been great and is making the transition well. We are thankful to have an Omaha keeper with us to teach us all of his quirks and she has taught us so much already about this handsome guy,” remarked Nancy Kauffman, Animal Management Supervisor.

The North Carolina Zoo currently has seven African elephants: males C’sar, Artie, and now Louie; and females Nekhanda, Rafiki, Tonga, and Batir. This multi-generational herd is managed with two separate habitats on the Watani Grassland, allowing the elephants to socially interact with each other much as they would in the wild.

Male elephants are fully grown by 25 years of age, so Louie is still expected to grow. He currently weighs 8,220 pounds and stands more than nine feet tall at the shoulder. African elephants are well-known as the world’s largest land mammals.

There is still no word on when ticket prices are set to go up. Back in February the NC Zoo council voted to increase the cost of admission by $2, Which would raise the cost of an Adult ticket from $15 to $17, $15 for Seniors, and $13 for children. The NC Zoo has typically raised admission prices every 5 years, with the last raise in April 2015 when adult prices went from $12.84 to the current price of $15. The price increase of the tickets hasn’t yet taken effect. In April Diane Villa, the Zoo’s Director of Communications and Marketing said there would probably not be any movement on the admission price for at least a few more months. “I think the sentiment is our citizens have been impacted by COVID so much, we just think now may not be the right time,” Villa said.