​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A slice of Africa is recreated in Indianapolis in the expansive Plains exhibit. When you walk into the large savannah, surrounded by tall grasses and trees on all sides, you'll feel like you're on safari in the bush as you watch a variety of African animals graze. The large exhibit spaces have been designed to provide guests — and animals — with multiple areas where they can watch these beautiful creatures. 

Addra (Dama) Gazelle

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Average size: Grow up to 34-42 inches and weigh up to 160 pounds

Median life expectancy: 19.3 years

Key physical characteristics: Longer legs and necks than other gazelles, small head, narrow muzzle and large eyes. Ches​​tnut colored, with a distinctive white spot

Native regions/habitat region: Open grasslands and savannas in Africa

Eating habits: Grazers, they eat herbs, shrubs, and grass

Conservation status: Critically endangered

Fun facts: Addra gazelles may stand on their hind legs to eat from trees and other plants as high as six feet from the ground. Also known as the Dama gazelle, the Addra is the largest of gazelles and the most endangered of the gazelle species. 

African Crested Porcupine

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Average size: Grow up to 33 inches long and weigh up to 44 pounds

Median life expectancy: 28 years

Key physical characteristics: Sharp quills

Native regions/habitat region: Hilly and rocky areas in Sub-Saharan Africa

Eating habits: Roots, bark and fruit

Conservation status: Stable

Fun Facts: Porcupines are widely known for their sharp quills. However, most people don't know that crested porcupines warn their predators long before actually injuring them. When a crested porcupine feels threatened, it will stomp its feet, click its teeth, growl and vibrate its quills before it pokes its predator. Porcupines reside in natural shelters near roots and rocks, holes made by each other or holes they dig themselves.

African Elephant

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Average size: Grow up to 13 feet tall and weigh up to 14,000 pounds

Median life expectancy: 38 years

Key physical characteristics: Long trunk, ivory tusks, big floppy ears, largest land mammal
Native regions/habitat region: Rain forests of West and Central Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa

Eating habits: Elephants enjoy grass, roots, fruit and hay and they can eat up to 300 pounds of food in a single day!

Conservation status: Threatened

Fun Facts: Humungous, intelligent and entertaining! Elephants are one of the world's most recognizable animals simply because of their size and their long, silly trunks. Female elephants live in herds with their calves while male elephants tend to roam on their own or in a bachelor herd. Elephants have the longest gestation period of all mammals — 22 months. The Indianapolis Zoo is well known throughout the world for its cutting-edge elephant reproduction research. The first and second African elephants in the world to be conceived and successfully born through artificial insemination were at the Zoo.

African Lion

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Average size: Grow up to 4.5-6.5 feet

Median life expectancy: 16.8 years

Key physical characteristics: Males are distinguishable from females by their manes.

Native regions/habitat region: Dispersed throughout Central Africa

Eating habits: Smaller game animals

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Fun facts: These intimidating animals mark the area by roaring menacingly to warn intruders and chase off animals that encroach on their turf. Female lions are the primary hunters of the pride. They work together to gather food for their young.


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Average size: Grow up to 3.54 feet long with a tail up to 25.5 inches long

Median life expectancy: 11.3 years

Key physical characteristics: Spotted fur; long, lean bodies

Native regions/habitat region: Open plains in Eastern and Southwestern Africa

Eating habits: Small game animals found on the plains

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Fun facts: Cheetahs can go from zero to 60 mph in just three seconds! Female cheetahs typically have a litter of three cubs and live with them for one-and-a-half to two years. Young cubs spend their first year learning from their mother and practicing hunting techniques with playful games. Once they reach maturity, male cheetahs live alone or in small groups, often with their littermates.

East African Grey-Crowned Crane

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Exhibit presented by: Horton

Average size: 36 to 48 inches tall, 6 to 9 p​ounds

Median life expectancy: 27.2 years

Key physical characteristics: Gray body; white wings with gold and brown feathers; distinctive golden feathers on top of the head, which give the bird its name; black legs

Native regions/habitat range: Eastern and Southern Africa

Eating habits: Seeds, grass and insects

Conservation status: Threatened

Fun facts: The East African grey crowned crane is the national bird of Uganda and is featured on its national flag. They're recognizable by their loud, honking call. To attract a mate, male cranes will perform an elaborate dance that includes bowing, head shaking and jumping. ​

Eastern White-Bearded Wildebeest​

Average size: Grow up to 5-8 feet long, 3-5 feet tall and weigh 300-650 pounds

Average lifespan: 20 years

Key physical characteristics: Large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard and sharp, curved horns

Native regions/habitat: Grassy plains and open woodlands of Central, Southern and Eastern Africa

Eating habits: Grass

Conservation status: Stable

Fun facts: Wildebeests travel in large herds and are active day and night. Each spring, wildebeests migrate northward. This spectacular migration is considered to be one of the greatest spectacles on Earth, involving up to 1.5 million wildebeests as well as hundreds of thousands of other animals, including zebras and gazelles.

Grant's Zebra

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Average size: Grow to 4.5 feet tall and weigh about 700 pounds

Average lifespan: 25 years

Key physical characteristics: A stocky white body marked with black

Native regions/habitat range: Grasslands, savannas, and open country of Africa, including Southern Sudan and Ethiopia, down to Central Angola and Eastern South Africa

Eating habits: Mostly grazers, but they will also eat some leaves and buds

Conservation status:  Stable

Fun facts: Zebras sleep in turns so there is always someone protecting their herd. They take part in social grooming by nibbling at each other's necks and backs and will stand nose-to-tail so they can groom simultaneously while also keeping watch for predators in both directions. No two zebras have the same stripe patterns.

Greater Kudu

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Average size: Grow up to 55 inches tall at shoulder and weigh 420-600 pounds

Median life expectancy: 23.5 years

Key physical characteristics: Stripes and spots, males have horns, females and lesser kudus are much smaller, typically weighing 50 pounds less

Native regions/habitat range: Dense brush or forest

Eating habits: Typically eat leaves and plants, love fruit like watermelon during dry seasons

Conservation status: Stable

Fun facts: Greater kudu horns can grow up to 72 inches and their coats provide camouflage.

Guinea Baboon

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Average size: Grow up to 34 inches tall​

Median life expectancy: 36 years

Key physical characteristics: Reddish-brown fur, black faces and yellow sideburns; smallest of the baboon species

Native regions/habitat range: Dry forests and savanna woodlands in Africa

Eating habits: Seeds, fruits, nuts and grass

Conservation status: Near threatened

Fun facts:Have you ever seen a primate picking at another primate's hair? This animal behavior is called social grooming. When you see this friendly gesture, Guinea baboons are strengthening their relationship bonds within their troop. In the wild, male guinea baboons will leave their troops, which number up to 40 baboons, to search for other troops. Female Guineas have a strict hierarchy that stabilizes the troop. Here at the Indianapolis Zoo, Cheerios are a favorite snack for our Guinea baboons!

Kangal Shepherds

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Average size: Grow between 28-32 inches, weigh between 100-150 pounds​

Average lifespan: 12-15 years

Key physical characteristics: Large in size, light tan in color with some dark hair around face and ears

Native regions/habitat range:: Farmlands in Turkey

Eating habits: Dog food

Conservation status: Stable

Fun facts: Kangal dogs are used to protect live stock from predators in the wild. They were brought to the Zoo to educate guests about Cheetah Conservation. If kangals protect live stock from being preyed by cheetahs, farmers won't shoot and kill cheetahs. Learn more about the Indianapolis Zoo's conservation efforts at the Kangal Dog and Cheetah Keeper Chats.Note: Kangal Shepherds are only out during Keeper Chats which are seasonal and weather dependent.

Marabou Stork

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Average size: Grow up to 5 feet tall and weigh up to 19 pounds

Average lifespan: 20 years

Key physical characteristics: Hollow leg and toe bones, pouch on their throats
Native regions/habitat range: Marshes/savannas all over Africa and into some parts of Asia and Europe

Eating habits: Fish and insects

Conservation status: Stable

Fun facts: Marabou storks are always seen and never heard because they have no voice box. Their adaptation of hollow leg and toe bones makes flying easy and effortless. Marabous have a pouch on their throats that is used for courtship, not feeding like you might think. It doesn't help them when they're eating fish and insects![close]


Average size: Males can grow up to 9 feet tall weigh more than 300 pounds; females can get up to 6 feet tall and can weigh about 240 pounds.

Median life expectancy: 10 years

Key physical characteristics: Ostriches are distinguished by their large bodies with long, bare neck and legs. Males have black feathers on their chest and wings, with a white underside, while the females have grayish-brown feathers covering their bodies with light colored feathers on the edges.

Native region/habitat range: Savannas and woodlands of Africa  

Eating habits: Mixtures of plants and seeds as well as insects and even small reptiles.

Conservation status: Least concern

Fun facts: Ostriches are the largest and heaviest of all living birds. These birds don't fly, but they can run at speeds up to 40 mph for short distances. Like camels, the ostrich can tolerate high temperatures and go without water for long periods of time, which helps them survive in the arid plains of Africa. ​

​Reticulated Giraffe

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Average size: Males can grow up to 18 feet and  weigh up to 4,250 pounds; females can grow up to 15 feet and weigh up to 2,600 pounds​

Median life expectancy​: 39.5 years

Key physical characteristics: Long, slender neck and legs; tan-orange patches covering the body

Native regions/habitat range: Found in Northeast Kenya and is interspersed in Central and Southern Africa in the arid zones and drier regions of Northern and Southern Savanna, wherever trees grow

Eating habits: Giraffes are the ultimate browsers, competing only with the elephant for food. They enjoy nibbling on the leaves from tall trees. Giraffes mainly prefer the Acacia tree but they do consume leaves from about 100 different species of trees. 

Conservation status: Vulnerable 

Fun facts: Awkward as they may be, giraffes can run up to 35 mph. Mothers give birth standing up. Giraffes have a long, black, prehensile tongue that's easily noticeable because it's out so much as they pull leaves from treetops. The dark color comes from a pigment called melanin that reduces the risk of sunburn.


Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

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Average Size: Grow up to be 3 feet long, have an 8.5 feet wingspan and weigh up to 20 pounds

Average lifespan: 40 years

Key physical characteristics: Speckled coat, grey head and long wingspan

Native regions/habitat: Central and South Africa

Eating habits: Small rodents

Conservation status: Endangered

Fun facts: Vultures have notoriously been known as the villains in movies and cartoons. With their massive wingspan, they may appear intimidating at first glance, but Ruppell's griffon vultures are loving and loyal. When these birds find a mate, they are paired for life! After a full, satisfying meal, these carnivorous birds can go without eating again for four days!


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Average size: Grow up to 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 120-250 pounds

Median life expectancy 11.5 years

Key Physical Characteristics: Mostly bald with sparse hair on their black skin; they have warts on their flat head for protection and four sharp tusks. Both sexes bear tusks that are used to dig. They have a barrel-shaped body with long legs and a short neck, making feeding difficult while standing.

Native Regions/Habitat: African savannas, open grasslands, and light forests

Eating Habits: Grazers that eat grass, roots, berries and tree bark

Conservation Status: Stable

Fun Facts: This species is a relative to domestic pigs. During the dry season, warthogs can survive in the wild for months without water.

White Rhinoceros​

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Average size: Grow up to 11- 13.75 feet in length, 5-6 feet tall and weigh 3,168-7,920 pounds

Median life expectancy: 34.2 years

Key physical characteristics: White rhinos have two horns, the foremost being more prominent. Rhino horns grow as much as three inches a year, and have been known to grow up to five feet long. Females use their horns to protect their young, while males use them to battle attackers.

Native regions/habitat:  African grassy plains, tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands

Eating habits: White rhinos are the only pure grazer of all rhino species, feeding almost exclusively on short grasses.

Conservation status: Endangered

Fun facts: White rhinos are not named by their color. Originating in Africa, these rhinos were named for their wide mouths. When the name was translated to English, "wide" became "white.​"