Mill Mountain Zoo and Carilion Clinic partner to create interactive, insect-themed playground

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 4:46 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Mill Mountain Zoo has a new insect-themed playground through a partnership with Carilion Clinic.

The Curiosity Corner playground allows kids to learn about insects while having fun at the same time.

“We really wanted to put something fun, interactive, in center of the zoo that would speak to our mission, which is conservation and education. What better way to engage kids and education than to make it fun?” asked Niki Voudren, Mill Mountain Zoo Executive Director.

It includes giant life-like bugs with displays explaining their anatomy and how they play a role in our ecosystem.

“Curiosity is one of Carilion’s five values,” said Chris Turnbull, Senior Director for Marketing and Communications for Carilion Clinic. “It’s the one we’re really focused on here today, encouraging children to discover new things, to try new things. That’s what we’re hoping for with this playground. It looks like they’re doing it already.”

The new space replaced a 300-foot-tall exhibit that was empty due to its age and design.

“It was kind of an archaic example of old school zoos. If people have a 360-degree view of the animal, they can feel some pressure and it can be stressful. We’re not going to put our animals in an uncomfortable situation, because animal welfare is of paramount importance to us. So, we demolished the structure and opened up the space and brought in color, education, and conservation,” added Voudren.

“We wanted to add a little color and a little pop so we can bring people to the zoo with something new, but understand the importance of even the little insects that we can bring to light and things that normally get squished have importance in our culture too,” said Thomas West, Mill Mountain Zoo Special Projects Coordinator.

They plan to add more insects to the playground over time.

All the animals at Mill Mountain Zoo are critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, threatened or non-releasable due to captive birth or injury.