Barcelona Zoo unveils a new section of its Sahel savannah complex

The new enclosures improve the well-being of the species that inhabit them, and are an important teaching resource to help show the characteristics of the Sahel ecosystem

The Zoo has completed a new phase of the work on its Sahel savanna complex. During this phase, work was finished on the outdoor section of the giraffe enclosure and a new enclosure for banded mongooses. Also completed is the first section of a walkway that will cross the Savanna, allowing visitors to admire the elephants and giraffes from new angles, or even view the sleeping giraffes through a large window.

There are now also two small viewpoints for the elephants, one in front of the American flamingo enclosure and the other on some new steps that go up to the Savanna Bar via a small cave where there are reproductions of cave paintings showing the animals found in the desert.

The new enclosures are intended to improve the well-being of the species that inhabit them, and are an important teaching resource to help show the characteristics of the Sahel ecosystem - heavily dependent on a short period of rain and, therefore, very sensitive to the effects of climate change - and the animals that live there.  

There is also a small sample of the flora of the Sahel region, which the Zoo has worked on with the Barcelona Botanical Gardens, and will be extended as and when the plants are the appropriate size to be put in.

Once the giraffes have adapted to their new home and the mongooses have been moved gradually to ensure that the whole pack adapts well, everyone will be invited to come and see these new spaces, providing spectacular viewpoints for the animals of the savanna. 

The Sahel at the Zoo

Situated at the heart of the Zoo, this large complex is devoted to the ecosystem of the Sahel, and in addition to the elephants, giraffes, lions and mongooses already mentioned, other Sahel species will be housed there as time goes on. The Zoo has had links with the Sahel for many years, through its very active participation in conservation and reintroduction projects for some of the most endangered species in the region, such as the Mohor and Dorcas gazelles, in partnership with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).  

The complex recreates the vegetation and orography of this ecosystem - which is predominantly flat, with abundant acacias, grasses and some euphorbias - using native plants or other species that help to reproduce the landscape.  

All the enclosures are designed based on the needs of the animals, and one of their common features is that they allow free access between indoor and outdoor enclosures whenever possible (except for during cold spells or cleaning periods, or for other technical reasons).  

As for the public’s experience, visitors can watch the animals where they sleep, and also in the outdoor areas seen from different angles at the various viewpoints, some of which allow a really close view, so long as they want to get close too.

There is only one giraffe population in the Sahel, found in Niger, and there is no ex situ conservation programme for them.  Representing them at the Zoo is the Rothschild's giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), one of the most endangered subspecies of which only a few hundred survive.  Barcelona Zoo participates in the European Endangered Species (EEP) ex situ conservation programme for the Rothschild's giraffe.

As for the mongooses, their new habitat includes a network of interconnected runs, as well as a den visible to the public.  They can be seen from two different levels, one of which, at eye level, gives a better view of all the ways in which this species develops to adapt to the environment.

The next phase

Work has already begun on the next phase of the Sahel savanna, which will include the completion of the walkway previously mentioned and the building of the outdoor area in the new lion enclosure. The work will be completed in 2019, with the extension and naturalisation of the elephant enclosure.

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