Preparing for zoo’s centennial

New tigers, lions habitats to be completed this year

This photo taken April 10 shows the African lion habitat under construction at Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot. Rebar is being placed on the walls of the new lion building before kopje-style rock is added. The African lion habitat is part of a three-phase project to include the zoo’s lions, tigers and leopards. Submitted Photo

Minot’s Roosevelt Park zoo’s Amur tigers and African lions will have new homes at the zoo later this summer when buildings for the cats are completed.

A ground opening for the new cat habitats is also being planned, said Jennifer Kleen, executive director of the Minot Zoo Crew.

The zoo’s centennial capital campaign to finance the new habitats for the tigers and lions is well on its way to its $6 million goal.

Launched in December 2017, the Centennial Capital Campaign, as of April 10, had $4,688,152, Kleen said.

“It is the first large-scale capital campaign leading up to the zoo’s centennial year in 2021,” said Becky Dewitz, zoo director, when the campaign was launched in December 2017. “There are not many zoos that have exhibits like what we are doing.”

Originally the goal of the capital campaign was $5 million but later changed to $6 million due to higher projected costs.

Numerous businesses, organizations and individuals have donated to the capital campaign over the past months.

The tigers new area at the zoo is located near the zoo’s visitor center and the lions will be on the east loop of the zoo where other African species are located. A special feature of the African Lion Savannah is a 3-foot by 3-foot by 3-foot cave with a viewing window for a unique look at the lions for the smallest zoogoers.

Rolac Contracting Inc. of Minot is in charge of the construction project.

The new larger and more natural habitats for the tigers and lions is part of a three-phase project to also include the leopards.

The habitat for the zoo’s two leopard species, a renovation of the existing cat habitats, will be in addition to the $6 million. That project is in the design phase, Kleen said. The renovation will encourage climbing for the Amur leopards and snow leopards.

Numerous people representing Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo or with a special interest in the zoo broke ground in June 2018 for the new cat habitats at the zoo. The new cat habitats are part of the plans for the zoo’s centennial observance in 2021.

“We’ve been talking about it for quite some time,” said Dewitz at the ground-breaking ceremony. “The zoo is the oldest zoo in North Dakota and these are dramatic changes to improve the quality of the zoo for our people.”

Minot’s zoo drew more than 95,000 visitors in 2018. It reaches more than 10,000 students through regional education and outreach programs.

It is among only 23% of zoos in North America accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the highest accreditation standard in the world.