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Heart of Africa Opens At Columbus Zoo

A month after the Columbus Zoo levy was resoundingly defeated by voters; the zoo had something to celebrate. After years in the making, the Heart of Africa exhibit finally opened, Thursday morning, to a throng of visitors. Zoo guests were excited to see the lions, giraffes and Betty White who was the grand opening’s special guest speaker. On a small stage at the entrance of Heart of Africa, women, dressed in traditional African garb, danced rhythmically to the beat of drums. The entertainment is part of the overall experience the zoo says it is trying to create in its multi-million dollar exhibits, such as Heart of Africa. Actress Betty White, who visited the Columbus Zoo with director emeritus Jack Hanna 35 years ago, was invited back to cut the ribbon to the exhibit. “Look what it’s grown into," she said. "And it’s now one of the most important zoos all over the country, all over the world. It has a reputation of its own.â€? White called the zoo an ambassador for the world’s animals, especially for diminishing species. "We’re not shrinking. There are plenty of us," White said. "But we’ve got to also take tending loving care of these incredible creatures that live on this beautiful planet.â€? Children and adults alike were in awe of the lions, ostriches and giraffes that roamed the open prairie. “Mommy! Mommy! That’s a doggy one," a small girl exclaimed to her mother. The dog was a cheetah lying in the shade. Mandy Martin, of Columbus, braved the crowd with her daughter and two foster children. “We home-school, and so we take full advantage of the zoo," Martin said. "It’s a great learning opportunity, and we can’t come enough.â€? “Every single day Africa will change," Zoo CEO Tom Stlaf noted. "We have every hour on the hour a new experience.â€? "It’s all about highlighting the characteristics of these beautiful animals. And as I’m speaking to you on radio I’m looking back at a beautiful giraffe that’s walking out in the savanna. It’s just, it is Africa.â€? The $30 million exhibit features more than 130 animals, representing 20 species. Some of its highlights include camel rides, a cheetah run and giraffe feedings.