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CAMBRIDGE -- When looking for an adventure, sometimes it's as easy as looking in your backyard. Cambridge residents are lucky to have a one-of-a-kind safari in their "backyard."
The Wilds, located in Cumberland, is a non-profit safari park and conservation center that encompasses 9,154 acres - or 14 square miles. This includes 2,000 acres of pastures, a 27-acre Carnivore Conservation Center, an Audubob Important Bird area and birding stations, butterfly habitats, hiking trails, biking trails and roughly 150 lakes.
Living at the Wilds are thirty-one different species of mammals. Many of which are rare and endangered animals. Zebras, cheetahs, giraffes and rhinoceros are just a few of the animals you can see while on safari.
In 2012 more than 75 animals were born at the Wilds. Most recently, two white rhino calves were welcomed at the Wilds. The first was born on Nov. 21 and the second on Jan. 3.
In 2001, the Wilds joined forces with Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. This partnership has proven beneficial on more than one occasion.
A trip through the Wilds can be taken many different ways. The signature experience is a Safari Transport. Guests are guided through the open-range animal areas, stopping at the Mid-Sized Carnivore Conservation Center and other spots to explore and observe the wildlife.
Another option is the open air safari. Best described as a glorified Jeep ride, this vehicle offers non-obstructed views of the wildlife for great photo taking opportunities.
If you are looking for something a little more private, a Wildside tour might be right for you. Management specialists take visitors on a three-hour tour and stop to feed animals or observe medical procedures.
There are also some more adventurous options. A Horseback safari, a fishing safari or even get a bird's-eye-view on a zip line safari are all ways to make your trip at the Wilds exciting.
With so many different adventures at the Wilds, you may want to make it a weekend at the Wilds. If you choose to stay, there are yurts available at Nomad Ridge or the luxury cabin, The Lodge, that has room for 12 people.
Even though the Wilds offers many different and fun ways to see the animals, research and conservation is the main focus of the park. Being involved in developing sustainability plans for the endangered cheetah resulted in four litters being born at the Wilds. Research done at the Wilds has impacted conservation breeding programs. The Wilds works with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Cleveland Zoo and has reestablished the trumpeter swan and osprey to Ohio. The Wilds is home to North America's largest herd of Sichaun takin and their research has benefited others working with this species.
The Wilds is a living laboratory. Ecological research is being done to increase plant biodiversity, wetland restoration, tree planting and ecosystem recovery.
Staff and researchers at the Wilds want visitors to have fun and be educated. There are programs available to children of all ages. In 2012, the Wilds' education programs had 12,854 participants.
However you look at it, the Wilds has a lot to offer to the Cambridge area and visitors from near and far. Education, adventure, conservation and growth are all important factors to the Wilds.
On May 1, the Wilds will open for the season. On May 17, Wildzfest will take place. A day of entertainment, food, games, crafts and character appearances are set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Wilds is open seven days a week during the months of May, June, July, August and September. Saturdays and Sundays in October. The first tours depart at 10 a.m. and the last tour departs at 4 p.m. The Wilds is located at 14000 International Road, Cumberland, OH. More information on everything "Wild" can be found on their website, www.thewilds.org.