Construction progressing on zoo’s new lions & tigers habitats
Construction is going well on the buildings for the new tiger and lion exhibits at Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo, says Becky Dewitz, zoo director.
“Both buildings are completely constructed,” Dewitz said. The buildings are heated so workers can work inside during the cold weather.
Concrete has been poured for the floor in the lions’ building and it will be poured soon for the floor in the tigers’ building. Dewitz said concrete was being poured up until January. Work is being done on the masonry walls as well. Rolac Contracting Inc. of Minot is the construction firm for the project.
“Presently everything is on time and on schedule,” Dewitz said. Plans are to have the buildings done this summer.
“Everything is coming along quite nicely,” she added.
The project includes new habitat for the Amur tigers near the Visitors Center and for new habitat for African lions on the east loop of the zoo where other African species are located.
The zoo’s capital campaign for the project now is at $4.7 million, Dewitz said. “We need a little over a million to achieve our $5.8 million goal,” she said.
“It’s our first ever capital campaign like this,” she added. She said the $300,000 river otter exhibit was a large endeavor (in 2003) but the present capital campaign is significantly more and raising the money could not have been done without the community’s support.
As an Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited institution, Dewitz said it’s important that the Minot zoo modernizes its infrastructure to maintain that accreditation.
Dewitz referred to statistics provided by Gregg Hudson, chief executive of the Dallas Zoo for a story published this week in the Dallas News. Hudson said there’s over 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the USDA across the country and fewer than 10 percent of them or 233 animal institutions are AZA-accredited. That means these animal institutions have gone through an extensive review process to achieve accreditation.
Dewitz said achieving AZA accreditation is not an easy feat nor is it wanted to be taken lightly because it is very rigorous.
She said more than 190 million people visited AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums each year, according to Hudson, and more than $200 million worth of conservation initiatives are supported by AZA institutions. “That’s really the testament of why we strive for AZA accreditation. It keeps us to a very high standard,” Dewitz said.
Roosevelt Park Zoo has been accredited by AZA since 1989. Accreditation is for five years and at the end of the five-year cycle the zoo must apply and start over again, Dewitz said.
“The accreditation is difficult. They look at every aspect of your operation,” she said.
The zoo is the oldest zoo in North Dakota and will observe its centennial year in 2021.