Friday, December 07, 2007

N.C. Zoo looks, plans for the future

The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro has some grand ideas for its future. Here's to hoping they come to fruition.

An enlarged elephant and rhino exhibit is on tap for next spring, according to the Asheboro Courier-Tribune.
"The new exhibits will feature the state zoo’s expanded herds of nine rhinoceros and seven elephants, the most ever, and improve the ability to breed both pachyderm species. The elephants are part of one of the largest African elephant collections in the United States," said the paper.

The zoo has other projects, dependent on public and private funding over the next several years, on the horizon. Among them are an enlarged exhibit to house more polar bears, including youngsters; a third continent, Asia; and the Children’s Discovery Center. ...

“The keeping of bears is the next big thing after elephants[, said N.C. Zoo Director Dr. David Jones]. They need land space, more than originally thought.”

Enlarged exhibits are needed for the zoo’s polar, grizzly and black bears.

Jones noted that the design for the present polar bear exhibit, which opened in 1994, “was state of the art at the time.”

The current plan for the Rocky Coast exhibit is to provide new holding facilities — capable of housing five or six polar bears, including youngsters — and three times the present exhibit space. Estimated cost is $6.2 million.

The next project would be doubling the enclosure size for grizzly bears and making modifications to the black bear exhibit. Estimated cost is $2.5 million.

Jones said that early planning work is already under way for the Asian continent, which would be constructed on a 100-acre area between the parking lots for Africa and North America. ...

The new continent would focus on Asian animals, plants and habitats.

Featured animals in the first phase would include the Great One-Horned Indian Rhino and the zoo’s most requested species, tigers.

The second phase could bring in Giant Pandas and other species, like snow leopards, from the foothills and high mountain tops of the Eastern Himalayas, themed around China’s largest panda sanctuary, “Wolong.” Orangutans and Malayan tapirs would be included in the third phase. Estimated cost is $43.5 million. ...

We are fortunate here in North Carolina have such a world-class zoo. And we are even more fortunate that its leaders want to keep forging ahead, making it better and better.

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