Recent groundbreaking ceremonies at Binder Park Zoo will see two major attractions added to the exhibits at the Battle Creek zoo.A new African Painted Dog exhibit will be built in the Wild Africa section of the zoo, and on April 20th, a second ceremony celebrated the culmination of the zoo's “Lions, Tortoise & Bears…Oh My” capital campaign with the groundbreaking of the African Lion exhibit on Wednesday, April 20th.

The new lion exhibit construction will take place through the 2016 season with an anticipated opening in 2017.  Features of the exhibit include a grassy meadow with a water hole reminiscent of the African plains. A rock formation will provide shelter as well as a place for the lions to perch and enjoy the sun. A close-up viewing area will allow visitors to observe the lions face-to-face through a glass wall. The viewing shelter will resemble an African home and graphics will demonstrate efforts by young adults to help protect lions in the wild.  The lion and dog exhibits will share an animal holding building and a transfer chute system.  While the two species will never come in direct contact with each other and will travel through the chute at separate times, the shared building and transfer chute system will allow keepers to swap the two species between exhibits. This swapping of exhibits will offer both species an excellent enrichment opportunity, allowing them to experience new sites and smells.

A new African Painted Dog exhibit will be built in Wild African thanks to a very generous donation by the Zanetti family, in memory of Andrew T. Zanetti, by his father, Frank Zanetti and his uncle and aunt, John and Anne Zanetti.

The African painted dog exhibit will be designed to encourage and highlight the natural behaviors of painted dogs. It will feature natural landscape, rocks, trees and a water feature for the dogs to explore. The guest viewing area will resemble a living compound near an African national park and graphics will bring to light efforts to protect this unique and integral species. The exhibit will be adjacent to the upcoming African lion exhibit and will share an animal holding area as well as transfer chutes that will allow the dogs and lions to be switched back and forth to each exhibit. The exhibit transfer system will offer a unique enrichment opportunity for the both the dogs and lions, as they will be able to explore each other’s exhibits and experience new smells and activities.

The African painted dog is one of the world’s most endangered mammals, with less than 5,500 remaining in the wild; most being predominately found in southern and eastern Africa.  The painted dog is also one of the world’s most social canids and lives in very close groups of 2-27 individuals. Their markings are unique to the individual and allow other pack members to easily identify each other. Their family strengths come from their vocalization, socialization and their team hunting.  Studies conducted on the painted dog also indicated that these remarkable creatures will also take care of sick members and mourn the loss of a family member reconfirming the strength of these pack animals.  Binder Park Zoo is home to three male African painted dogs; Victor, Verizon and Black Tail.  There are currently about 100 dogs in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan population distributed throughout over 33 accredited institutions.