The Wilds is a private, non-profit wildlife conservation center located in Muskingum County, Ohio. It is situated on 9,154 acres (37.04 km²) of reclaimed coal mine land and is home to over 25 non-native and hundreds of native species. The Wilds is the largest wildlife conservation center for endangered species in North America and is open between the months of May and October. Formally, the Wilds is incorporated as The International Center for the Preservation of Wild Animals, Inc. (ICPWA).
The Wilds was originally created as a partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Development, the Ohio zoological parks, and companies in the private sector in 1984. While the Wilds was an organization on paper, however, it was not until 1986 that they received the land they now own as a gift from the Central Ohio Coal Company. Now that the Wilds had a home, they could hire employees, begin development planning, and find fundraising support.
After a few years of company building, the first visitor center was finally completed in 1989. The Johnson Visitor Center as it is now known was built with the environment in mind, using a state-of-the-art geothermal heating and cooling system.
In anticipation of receiving their first animals, the first animal management facilities were built in 1990, along with the fencing of the initial open range. These projects allowed for the Wilds to receive their first animals in 1991, including Scimitar-Horned Oryx, Przewalski's Horses, and Hartmann's Mountain Zebras.
The Wilds opened to the public three years later. For the next few years, they continued to add animals, improve their conservation efforts, and increase the public's awareness of such matters. By 2002, however, the Wilds was facing financial troubles. This spurred the board of trustees to initiate a major reorganization of the Wilds, which included developing a better working relationship with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. This culminated in the completion of the first Strategic Vision Plan in 2005, designed to guide the success and future development of the Wilds for the future.
In 2005 the Wilds initiated its long-term strategic plan, which is broken into "strategic centers" to facilitate progress in each field. These "centers" are based on the Wilds' core values, which include a commitment and respect for nature, social and scientific relevance, and innovative, entrepreneurial and creative approaches to the problem at hand. The strategic centers are focused on animal management, science and research, conservation education & professional training, land stewardship and habitat management, personal experience, institutional partnerships, and resource development & sustainability.
The Wilds is involved in many different conservation methods in an attempt to help reduce the decline of wildlife habitats. These methods range from professional training to animal husbandry to conservation medicine.
The Wilds is dedicated to wildlife conservation, and in order to solve many conservation problems, they are fostering the development of conservation medicine. Specifically they have begun three projects that will be models for the conservation medicine initiative as a whole. These include assessing water quality and its effects on marine life, comparing animal health parameters in multiple habitats, and evaluating fresh water mussels for diseases, parasites and toxins. Each of these projects is designed to not only discover the condition of different wildlife and their habitats, but to develop methods to reduce or reverse any destruction of each ecosystem.