WORTH THE DRIVE: New attraction at Cincinnati Zoo is hopping

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Roo Valley opened in mid-August with a concept that’s very different from other areas of the zoo — there are no barriers.

The 15,000-square-foot walkabout allows you to follow a path in an open area and say “g’day” in person to nine gray kangaroos and three red kangaroos that hop about, play, and graze.

According to the zoo, the red kangaroos can be 3 to more than 5 feet tall, with a tail that’s 3 feet or longer. They weigh up to 200 pounds as adults. Gray kangaroos can grow up to 7 feet tall.

Cincinnati Zoo’s kangaroos arrived from zoos where they’ve already adjusted to having people roaming in their habitats. The entrance is monitored so the kangaroos will stay in the open enclosure.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

“It feels like you’ve entered another world when you’re in the walkabout,” Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard said in a press release. “It’s lush and beautiful with kangaroos right next to you! And right around the corner, you get face to face with 30+ penguins splashing around in crystal clear water.”

The penguins Maynard references are Little Blue Penguins — and the largest group of them outside of Australia is at the Cincinnati Zoo. Previously the 34 penguins were in the Children’s Zoo and were moved into the improved habitat with more water features, heated rocks, and a sandy beach for the penguins and a better underwater viewing area. The smallest of all the penguins, sometimes called “fairy penguins,” they stand just a foot tall and spend about 80 percent of their time in the water. Unlike their larger cousins, they grow up with iridescent blue feathers instead of black or yellow.

The impressive $2 million addition where the kangaroos and penguins are housed is part of the zoo’s More Home to Roam $50 million fundraising campaign to improve habitats and focus on conservation.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Here are a few things to know before you go visit these giant jumping marsupials:

• Plan your trip: The Cincinnati Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday. But reservations are required for all guests, so plan your visit in advance and plan your visit to Roo Valley first thing or around lunchtime, when the line will be shorter. The wait can be quite lengthy, so try to go when you can get in quickly.

• It’s ecofriendly: The water that flows through Roo Valley, and in the penguin pool, is 100% rainwater that’s being collected in 100K-gallon-capacity stormwater tanks and stored under the habitat. Other sustainability features built into the space include a green roof over the penguin habitat and a huge geothermal well system that assists in heating and cooling the pools and cuts the energy usage roughly in half.

• Masks are required: Although it’s open air, you will be in close proximity of others so plan on wearing a comfortable mask when you go.

• Enjoy the view: Visitors can relax and view Roo Valley from “Hops”, a multi-tiered beer garden. Hops features local brews from Fifty West, High Grain, MadTree and Braxton. In addition to the great selection of local craft beers, Heidelberg Distributing will offer a national rotating tap with Goose Island (Chicago, IL), Breckenridge (Breckenridge, CO), Elysian (Seattle, Washington) and Golden Road (Los Angeles, CA). Sustainability is important. Hops is going for a 4-star rating from the Green Restaurant Association for Hops. They grow their own herbs, and source produce, cheeses and meats locally. A new mobile food ordering option allows for touchless transactions with food pickup at Hops.

• KangaKlimb: A two-level, ADA-accessible ropes course with 50 activities will add even more adventure when it opens in 2021.

Crikey, right?

Contact this contributing writer at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

How well do you know your kangaroos?

There are red and gray kangaroos at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Roo Valley.

Kangaroos live in social groups called mobs. Males, called boomers, are twice the size of females, called flyers. These big-footed hoppers can cover more than 20 feet in a single bound and reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour, though they prefer to lay around during the heat of the day.

Here are some more facts to know before you plan a trip to walk with these massive hoppers.

• Kangaroos possess powerful hind legs, a long, strong tail, and small front legs. Kangaroos belong to the animal family Macropus, literally “big foot.” Thanks to their large feet, kangaroos can leap some 30 feet in a single bound, and travel more than 30 miles per hour.

• Kangaroos use their strong tails for balance while jumping. They are the tallest of all marsupials, standing over 6 feet tall.

• Female kangaroos sport a pouch on their belly, made by a fold in the skin, to cradle baby kangaroos called joeys. Newborn joeys are just one inch long (2.5 centimeters) at birth, or about the size of a grape. After birth, joeys travel, unassisted, through their mom’s thick fur to the comfort and safety of the pouch. A newborn joey can’t suckle or swallow, so the kangaroo mom uses her muscles to pump milk down its throat. At around 4 months, the joey emerges from the pouch for short trips and to graze on grass and small shrubs. At 10 months, the joey is mature enough to leave the pouch for good.

• Besides humans and wild dogs called dingoes, kangaroos face few natural predators. Heat, drought, and hunger due to vanishing habitat are the biggest dangers kangaroos face. Generally, they are active at night and during periods of low light, but it is quite possible to find them out in the open in bright sunlight. During hot weather, kangaroos lick their forearms, which promotes heat loss by evaporation.

• With the removal of most of their natural predators, kangaroo populations have grown quite large. In fact, there are twice as many kangaroos as people in Australia — over 45 million. It’s not uncommon to see kangaroos grazing in pastures, yards, and golf courses

• The red kangaroo is the world’s largest marsupial. A red kangaroo can reach speeds of over 35 miles an hour. Female red kangaroos are smaller, lighter, and faster than males. They also boast a blue-hued coat, so many Australians call them “blue fliers.” Red kangaroos live in Australia’s deserts and open grasslands, gathering in groups called mobs.

• Gray kangaroos roam Southern Australia. Both red and gray kangaroos can cover 25 feet in a single leap and to jump 6 feet high.

Source: http://cincinnatizoo.org

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