ZOO NEWS: Zoo Hoping for Early Spring

According to the calendar, spring has sprung. We dealt with the blizzard conditions a couple of weeks ago 90-days after we had that day of heavy fog. As I am still trying to learn the intricacies of North Dakota winters, I find myself wondering if that last heavy snow was our last heavy snow? I don’t expect winter to turn off like a light switch but am looking forward to some nicer days so we can get some of our animals outside sooner.

With the variety of projects, we are working on for this year, most are intended to make the zoo more engaging during these winter months for both the animals and guests. The biggest of the projects will also have the biggest impact. The African Plains building will be attached to the giraffe barn and provide a space for guests to view giraffes throughout the year provide them space to stretch their legs and get more exercise. But, as they say on television, that’s not all. This building will provide housing and winter room to roam for the zebras. But wait, there’s more. An aviary within the building will feature the African ground hornbills among other African avian species. All these species spend a majority of the winter out of public view, but with this building, all will be viewable from within the climate-controlled building and provide giraffe feeding opportunities year-round.

The second impactful project will be the holding spaces for the primates. Current plans for the gibbon exhibits include constructing a building around the current outside enclosure and including indoor spaces for guests to view them all winter long. This project will also include new outdoor habitats that will provide them opportunities to enjoy the days that are warm enough to be outside as well as throughout the summer season. We are also planning for a lemur holding project that will include the construction of a new building between two of the existing lemur enclosures providing winter viewing and exhibit access for them as well. Currently all the primates are pulled off exhibit as soon as the temperatures begin to drop below an acceptable range and are not moved back until staff is certain that winter is past.

The remainder of the projects are tied to the MI-7 flood project as we will need to construct a new Ambassador Animal holding building and a concession stand that are each eliminated by the project. A final piece for this year will be to look into moving the Discovery Barn from the northside to the main campus. There are several smaller pieces to the needs ahead that staff is looking at piece-by-piece to ensure that we have done our due diligence for both the animals and our guests.

The road ahead will definitely be a bumpy one between the expectation of the new FEMA flood plain map and anticipated construction of the flood wall. We know what we must do, we just don’t know how much time we have, to get it done. But through faith, determination, passion, and a little help from Mother Nature, we will throw everything we have into it.


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