By: Patti Strand  Date: 01/27/2012

In 1986, a coal company, a bunch of zoos, and an Ohio state agency formed a unique public-private partnership with the ambitious plan to protect and conserve endangered species in natural areas. Today, the Wilds is home to dozens of species, participates in joint projects to restore some species to their historical ranges, and plans and implements research efforts to improve animal management, find cures for diseases, and improve reproductive strategies for declining species.

The Wilds started with the vision of the Ohio Departments of Natural Resources and Development and Ohio zoological parks and a donation of more than 9000 acres of reclaimed strip mine land by the Central Ohio Coal Company. In less than two decades, the dream has come true ... aided by donations from businesses and individuals and by cooperative efforts with other zoos and foreign governments and organizations, The Wilds conducts research in animal management, veterinary medicine, conservation biology, nutrition, genetics, ethology, microbiology, restoration biology, and reproduction on its preserve and elsewhere, all while educating students and the general public with tours of the animal habitats and facilities and special programs.

Located in the rolling hills of east-central Ohio, The Wilds is dotted with lakes that add to the suitability of the woods and grasslands as habitat for a wide variety of exotic species. Antelopes, camels, zebras, wild horses and donkeys, rhinos, and other species wander over thousands of acres, apparently free to roam and interact but actually carefully matched, confined and monitored. Tour buses travel the roads between areas, pausing at "Jurassic Park" gates that separate one from another.

The Wilds mission is based on science, the recognition that maintenance of sustainable populations of many species will require an increased level of management, and the conviction that collaborations and partnerships are critical to the success of conservation efforts. Animal health studies at The Wilds are designed to benefit the animals on site, help train veterinary students, and increase general knowledge about various species. Animal management involves large-scale breeding operations, maintenance of research populations, development of handling techniques for hoofed stock, and pre-release rearing of species in restoration projects.

Exotic species at The Wilds include Bactrian deer, Bactrian camel, Central Chinese goral, Persian onager, Pere David's deer, Indochina sika deer, Przewalski's wild horse, greater one-horned rhino, urial Sheep, Eld's deer, red-crowned crane, scimitar-horned oryx, sable antelope, Hartmann's mountain zebra, southern white rhino, fringe-eared oryx, common eland, reticulated giraffe, trumpeter swan, North American bison, and sandhill crane. These species share their spaces with native skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, wild turkeys, powls, and many others that are indigenous to Ohio.

Accredited by the American Zoo & Aquarium Association, The Wilds is a true collaborative effort that works on behalf of animals and the environment without vilifying mankind. For more information, visit the organization website at

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