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Wild Lives

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History unveils its Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center & Woods Garden. 

Winding walkways and canopied passageways transform the Cleveland Museum of Natural History grounds into a wildlife wonderland with the recently unveiled Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center & Woods Garden. With 48 species of animals, ranging from bobcats to golden eagles, the space serves as an immersive environment where visitors can get up-close looks at animals that are native to our state.

“Because these are all native Ohio animals, we’re not playing the role of the zoo,” says Evalyn Gates, executive director and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “What you’re going to do is have a chance to see, to interact with, to experience the animals here.”

More than 100 animals reside at the center, and the majority of them are rescues that are being rehabilitated there. For many of the animals, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s new addition provides the treatment and continued human interaction that they need to survive. 

“They’ve got some fascinating backstories — very heartbreaking, in some cases,” says Gates. “What we’re trying to do is provide an enriching life for them while they’re in our care.”

The twists and turns of the center’s visitor walkways create a stunning aesthetic. Designed by New York City-based Thinc Design, the space is meant to mimic the feel of the Philadelphia Zoo’s trailway system — a successful design pioneered two years ago that provides opportunities for visitors to engage with the animals.

There is no additional fee for visitors to access the center apart from the standard museum entrance cost, and Gates says she hopes the center will help develop a sense of curiosity about all that Ohio nature has to offer. “We don’t want your visit here to be the end of your story,” says Gates. “It’s a way of trying to connect you not just with this place, but with a larger sense of place here in Ohio.”

For more information, visit cmnh.org.

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