FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The Fort Worth Zoo is celebrating the grand opening of the first new exhibit in its $100 million renovation project. The African Savanna is 10 acres of mixed-species space. It includes habitats, dining areas, a special event area, restrooms and new ways for visitors to learn about the animals.
“We are so thrilled with these amazing new habitats,” stated Ramona Bass, co-chair of the Fort Worth Zoological Association’s board of directors. “I must thank the citizens of Fort Worth, who continue to be so generous in their support of the zoo. None of this would be possible without them.”
The African Savanna exhibit includes the giraffes, zebras, lesser kudu, springbok and ostriches roaming freely together. There is a separate yard set up for the flamingos, one for the hippos, and multiple yards for the rhinos. An exotic bird aviary contains even more species.
“Our giraffes have only been in with the ostriches in the old exhibit, so putting them in with the kudu and springbok is a new experience for them,” added Shauna Cannon with the Fort Worth Zoo. “That’s actually probably really enriching. New smells, new animals. They’re very curious. All of them are actually very curious about each other.”
One of the highlights of the African Savanna exhibit is the elevated observation deck. It gives guests an opportunity to view the giraffes face-to-face, and even feed the animals. Conversely, the zoo’s hippos can be seen from down below, with a new 70-foot underwater viewing area to observe the large animals as they spend most of the day submerged.
“While many of these animals have resided at the zoo for some time, guests will be able to get closer with these animals and engage in ways that they’ve never been able to before,” explained executive director Michael Fouraker. “The African Savanna will also shine a light on the struggles many of these animals face in the wild.”
The African Savanna officially opens to the public on April 21.
This is only the first phase of the Fort Worth Zoo’s renovation project called A Wilder Vision. The next exhibit will be Elephant Springs, scheduled to open in 2020. Elephant Springs will nearly triple the size of the current elephant enclosure giving room for the zoo’s three-generation elephant family to grow even further.
Two additional new exhibits will then be added over the next seven years.
“As a Top 5 zoo in the nation, we’re confident that the changes and improvements happening here will continue to elevate our profile as a top-ranked zoo, as well as an international leader in animal care and conservation,” said Fort Worth Zoo president Ardon Moore.