Sometimes it’s good to get away from the computer for a while and go exploring. And that’s exactly what my husband and I did recently. We took a 90 mile road trip east of Columbus, to a 10,000-acre conservation center called The Wilds. Never heard of it? Many people haven’t.
The Wilds is home to nearly 30 species of animals, many of them endangered or close to becoming extinct. According to its website, the mission of the Wilds is to advance conservation through science, education, and personal experience.
The Wilds offers a variety of tours and experiences for anyone wanting to hang out with the animals. We first experienced the Wilds in the fall of ’09 in the Open-air Safari tour.
As an animal lover, I wanted to get closer to the animals this time. So of course we decided to take the Wildside tour, where we rode in the back of a pickup truck, driving right up to the animals where we could pet and feed them. How fun is that?!
Our first stop was a street gang of Persian Onagers just hanging out like they were waiting for us. Persian Onagers are a subspecies of wild ass from Asia and the Middle East. Because of poaching, their survival is threatened. Two foals were born by artificial insemination last year at the Wilds, and we got a chance to see one of the babies up close.
Our next stop was the Bactrian Camels. Chris, our guide, told us that they have a tendency to spit; although this friendly camel was able to mind his manners. In fact he came right up to our truck, allowing everyone to pet him, as seen in this video.
The Sichuan Takin is from China and lives in the same bamboo forest habitat as the giant panda. Jack Hanna believes there are maybe 400 left in the world. We didn’t drive up close to him because we were told they are dangerous. As much as Chris called out to him, he seemed to be intent on eating and grazing.
Two types of Rhinoceroses reside at the Wilds: The Greater One-Horned Asian Rhino, and the Southern White Rhino. Our next stop was the former – the Asian Rhino. This guy was hungry, and responded to the sound of food! Watch Chris feed him an apple slice in this video.
After passing another street gang – this time wild horses, we cruised over to the Zebras.
These particular zebras were called Grevy’s Zebras. According to the Wilds, there are fewer than 3,000 of these left in the wild, mainly because they’re hunted for their skins. Their habitat is northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. They’re very beautiful animals.
I was fortunate to get a good video shot of one of the zebras.
Southern White Rhino
We got a chance to see the baby rhino that was born at the Wilds in January. She was a cutie, hanging out with the rest of the fam. Southern White Rhinos have keen smell and poor eyesight, according to the Wilds. This is the only facility in North America where 3rd-generation white rhinos are being born.
My favorite part of the tour was visiting and feeding a giraffe. Honestly, I could have stayed with this giraffe all day! The highlight was actually getting to feed one, who came walking right up to our truck. Chris passed out lettuce and everyone got a chance to feed him (or possibly her). And petting the giraffe was a real treat! There are 3 species of giraffes that live at the Wilds: Masai, reticulated, and Rothschild’s. Which one of these do you think we were feeding?
We got to stop and stretch our legs at the carnivore exhibit. For obvious reasons, they were enclosed in a fenced-in area. The Wilds has 3 types of carnivores: African wild dogs, Cheetahs, and the Dhole.
We watched a wild dog feeding, which is interesting, because they each have to be fed separately; otherwise they would fight over the food. I initially thought these creatures were hyenas because they squeak, rather than bark.
The Cheetah is an impressive animal. Did you know they are the fastest land mammals in the world and can run up to 70 MPH? Approximately 10,000 cheetahs remain in the wild.
Meeting Jack Hanna
The tour wrapped up with a “meet & greet” with Jack Hanna. Jack spent the day at the Wilds, visiting all of the tour groups. He told us about the Wilds’ history; and explained the importance of its conservation efforts.
Jack signed autographs and posed for pictures. He even brought some of his animals from the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium.
The entire tour lasted about three hours. There is a gift shop and a restaurant; a place to relax before heading home. Once you’ve experienced the Wilds, you’ll want to go back and try a different tour. Once you’ve done the Wildside tour, you won’t want to go back to any of the bus tours. What’s next? Perhaps a Zipline Safari, or an overnight stay at Nomad Ridge. Whatever your pleasure, you are guaranteed a great time with the animals.