Opening this April: the Lewa Savanna at Zoo Zürich

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich(Photograph copyright Zoo Zürich/Rita Schlegel)

On April 9, Zoo Zürich will be opening its new African savanna enclosure with more than a dozen animal species.

The Lewa Savanna is the latest puzzle piece in the zoo’s masterplan, which also envisions new habitats for gorillas and orangutans in the future.

The zoo’s largest section to date is inspired by the real-life Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, a wildlife sanctuary for the endangered black and white rhinos and other African animals at the foothills of Mount Kenya. As a strategic partner, Zoo Zurich has helped to sustain this nature conservancy for more than two decades.

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich

Meet the new residents of the Lewa Savanna

One of the new residents at the Lewa Savanna will be the Grévy’s zebra, the largest among its species. Native to northern Kenya, these zebras are endangered with only about 2500 remaining.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy - Grevy Zebra

Two of these striped animals with their iconic white bellies and big fluffy ears have been calling Zoo Zurich their home for a while now: Riha and Tana. And eventually, a total of four Grévy zebras will be moving to the Africa inspired plain just below the zoo’s Kaeng Krachan elephant park.

Inside the Lewa Savanna, the zebras will share a park of over 40’000 square meters with several other animals native to Kenya. After sixty years, giraffes will be returning to Zoo Zürich and they will be roaming among white rhinos in the very same plain. Hyenas, on the other hand, will be sectioned off into their own enclosure...

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich(Photograph copyright Zoo Zürich/Dominik Ryser)
 

Lewa village as a meeting point for zoo visitors

With the help of a scenographer, the zoo has created an African village and other artifacts that remind of Kenya. While the Zürich temperatures will hardly reach Lewa levels, the entire new section of the zoo emits warm vibes.

From a landing strip just like the one in real-life Lewa to an authentic classroom of a tourism school, various buildings and installations will engage visitors to learn more about Kenya: what are the most common animals? What are the benefits (and potential drawback) of tourism? And what are some important words in Swahili?

The newest section of Zoo Zurich is promising to take us on a journey to the heart of Kenya. I am convinced that come spring, the village with its food vendors will become a new meeting point for zoo visitors...

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich - Airstrip(Photograph copyright Zoo Zürich/Rita Schlegel)

A few months ago while the Lewa Savanna at Zoo Zürich was still under construction, I had the unique chance to get a behind-the-scenes preview. And believe me when I say that I was wowed by the level of detail that went into the design.

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich(Photograph copyright Zoo Zürich/Rita Schlegel)

The immersive experience starts right at the entrance of the Lewa Savanne. Follow the trail past the elephant house and you will first enter the grey parrot aviary. Africa’s largest parrot species will welcome us to Lewa with their high pitched chirps.

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich(Photograph copyright Zoo Zürich)

At the crossroads, you may decide to head for the indoor exhibit of giraffes and rhinos. During select times, it will be possible to feed the giraffes from the upper floor:

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich(Photograph copyright Zoo Zürich/Rita Schlegel)

Or you may continue on towards the outdoor savanna. Near a baobab tree (replica), you will find different vantage points and viewing platforms. From there, I am already excited to observe the animals from different angles and from closer distances.

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich

Take the rhinos which, despite their heavy appearance, have the potential to run with speeds of up to 50 km/h! Or the giraffes who are said to sleep while standing up straight...

Having stayed at the Lewa Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya before (and missing every bit of it), you may find me hang out in this part of Zoo Zurich frequently. Who knows? I may even stay inside the Lewa Savanna up until the zoo closes in order to catch a summer sunset! I especially miss watching those long necked giraffes as they browse the trees against the backdrop of the setting sun.

How Zoo Zurich supports the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya

More than two decades ago, Zoo Zürich had the vision to become an active part of conservancy efforts. One of their best known projects is the support of the Madagascar Masoala National Park, a smaller version of which can be experienced in Zürich.

A view of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya

Since 1998, Zoo Zürich has also contributed funds amounting to 1.7 million francs to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. This funding has not only helped to prevent conflicts between humans and animals, it has also supported the roughly 100’000 Kenyans who call the region around Lewa their home.

Specifically, some of the money goes into security operations, including equipment to fight poaching. The zoo also helps the gamekeepers with relocations, a sign that conservation efforts are working to their effect. (Some 20 rhinos have recently been relocated to another sanctuary as they had been flourishing at Lewa.)

And finally, in order to prevent accidents during road crossings, the zoo has also helped construct an underpass for wildlife migrating among sanctuaries.

I asked the current director of Zoo Zürich, Alex Rübel, about the strategic vision behind the partnership with the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy: “We wanted to support a long lasting and sustainable project; something you can visit and experience.” Now covering an area slightly larger than the Canton of Zug, the conservancy has grown from the much smaller rhino sanctuary it once was to the wildlife habitat it is today.

Dr. Alex Rübel of Zoo Zürich at the Lewa Wildlife Sanctuary

After more than two decades of collaborating with their partners in Kenya, Mr. Rübel tells me that the results look promising: "Lewa is established and we are seeing the results of 20 years of work. At Lewa, we have the opportunity to observe what really happens in the wilderness. What are the positive and negative effects over time?"

Elephants migrating in the Lewa Wildlife Sanctuary

The Lewa Savanna at Zoo Zürich will be opening its gates to the public on Thursday, April 9, 2020. More information

Lewa Savanne Zoo Zürich

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Dimitri Burkhard

Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Newly Swissed GmbH
As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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