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Zoo News; Change in the air at zoo, park

Suddenly, projects in and around the zoo begin to start moving forward. We should have everything in place to move forward on the African Plains Building and outside the zoo, tree removal will start this week in Roosevelt Park for the flood mitigation project. Both will have a tremendous impact on both the park and zoo for months to come.

The concept of the African Plains Building has been a dream for the zoo for over 20 years. It was initially a concept to provide the giraffes with a large space to enjoy throughout the winter months and allow guests to enjoy them year-round. With the MI-7 project moving forward we needed to move forward as quickly as possible to ensure we had a place for the giraffes during the construction or relocate them to another institution for the duration of the flood project.

The Greater Minot Zoological Society (GMZS) provided funds to start the design process and once it was far enough along to secure a good estimate, the zoo was blessed with an anonymous benefactor who contributed $2.5 million to cover the estimated cost, allowing us to move forward with the design. Unfortunately, bids came in nearly 20% higher than expected so the zoo looked elsewhere to make up the difference. along with what changes could be made to bring the price down. Once everything is in place and if this weather holds, I am hopeful that work can begin soon.

Once completed, this new building will meet our needs for keeping the giraffes in Minot and provide guests with access to enjoy them. The zoo plans to continue fundraising to eventually add an African aviary and a giraffe tamer that will allow greater access for veterinary care. Future MI-7 projects will include a boardwalk from the building to an elevated platform for viewing the giraffes in their new outdoor habitat.

More immediate though is the tree removal that started this week in Roosevelt Park to make way for the levees and wall that will be instrumental as a piece of the flood mitigation project. Trees must be removed before the end of March due to the long-eared bats, which are a protected species under the Endangered Species Act. During the tree removal process, the park will be closed to the public for safety reasons. Trees being taken down are either directly related to the flood project or deemed to have reached the end of their life.

Strict guidelines developed by the Corps of Engineers call for the removal and ongoing elimination of trees within a certain distance from the levees and walls. Following the tree removal process, other work for MI-7 will be forthcoming. However, for every tree removed, two will be planted to replace it.

We apologize ahead of time for the inconvenience and hope that everyone is patient with us along the way for the sake of the giraffes and other animals that will ultimately be served along with the zoo guests and park users. Progress is seldom easy, but with each opportunity comes great rewards.

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