Print Winter too cold for African animals
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00

Everyone knows Arizona can get hot.

The people who live here also know it can get cold — really, really cold, particularly after the sun sets and the mercury begins to drop this time of year.

It goes without saying people need shelter when the weather is cold, but that’s equally true for our four-footed friends. Or two-footed friends. Maybe with some horns or talons.

Out of Africa Wild Animal Park was able to construct five new, three-sided shelters for herd animals in the Serengeti portion of the park. The $60,000 project was made possible in part by  donations and discounts from local and statewide businesses.The animals in the Serengeti section of the Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde have some fancy new digs, thanks in large part to the generosity of many and fundraising efforts carried out by the park’s staff.

The park recently completed construction on five new concrete shelters, courtesy of a Tuscon-based cement company, many volunteers and some advantageous price breaks on materials.

Other money was raised through a series of raffles and events, with items like balloon rides, railroad tickets and giant stuffed giraffes.

The Serengeti section’s manager, Courtney Palmer, first decided to look into the feasibility of building shelters for the animals after seeing how cold it was getting at one point last year.

“There was a cold spell,” said Lauren Butler, assistant manager of the Serengeti. “Some of the animals were starting to develop frostbite.”

The park couldn’t afford to build these shelters by itself, Butler said, so the park’s staff are extremely grateful for the way the business community and people stepped up to help get the shelters in place.

Zebras flirt with tourists on a safari ride at Out of Africa Wild Animal Park on Thursday, Jan. 5. The zebras and other animals in the Serengeti portion of the park are making themselves right at home in the five new three-sided shelters recently constructed for the herd animals.Just one fundraising event in November raised $5,000 for the task, and many more thousands were raised in total.

People pitched in from all across the state, Butler said, from materials in Tuscon to rebar from Phoenix and blocks from Flagstaff.

The animals are appreciative too, even if they haven’t bothered to pick up the phone or write a personal thank you to those involved.

“The watusi practically moved in before it was finished,” said Ashton Powell, public relations director for the park, speaking of a large variety of African cattle with enormous horns. Now they think they own the place.

“Animals can be possessive,” Powell said.

There was also a curious giraffe, Powell said, so interested by the construction process they eventually had to block his access lest his investigations wreck progress.

He seemed to be over it last week, however, as another bus filled with carrot-wielding visitors pulled up.

The shelters are strategically located around the Serengeti section, and painted and crafted to look like natural rock.

Of course, building something like this at a unique location like Out of Africa carries its own set of challenges.

Powell laughed about having to set up some ground rules after one of the builders wandered off for a bit by himself, probably not the best idea in the middle of a bunch of wild animals, many with very sharp horns.

Most of the shelters are divided down the middle, park guide Matt Corrie said, so that more than one herd of animals can use them.

“We tried to build the shelters to make them conducive to what animals would naturally go into,” Powell said.

All in all, the work done added up to around a $60,000 project.The park is still raising money for a new reptile house as well.

In the meantime, it’s clear that the animals are already giving their new shelters their own personal touches for that lived-in look.