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Chaffee Zoo opens $10 million exhibit (VIDEO)

The Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s new exhibit, Sea Lion Cove, was officially opened to the public, Aug. 27. The exhibit is expected to enhance the zoo and boost the daily attendance.

The Sea Lion Cove is a brand new exhibit featuring four viewing points, including a 38-foot underwater viewing window, an overhead view, a presentation area and a rocky area at which the aquatic animals come right up to the glass. The exhibit replicates the scenery of Point Lobos, CA, with rocky terrain and vegetation from the California coast.

The Zoo’s Director of Education, Adrienne Castro, discusses the cost of the exhibit, as well as the time taken to build.

“The building of the exhibit cost $10 million,” Castro said. “That includes both design and construction. It took a year to design the exhibit, and another year to build.”

Unsure of how big the attendance boost will be, Castro explains her expectations. She has high hopes for the attendance during Labor Day weekend.

“We?re not really sure how big the attendance boost will be,” Castro said. “Usually when zoos open new exhibits, the boost can be anywhere between five and fifteen percent of the usual attendance. Labor Day weekend will be the first weekend in which the exhibit is open to the public, so we’re waiting to see how that will go.”

Sasha Ebrahim, a zoo member, appreciated the the new exhibit. She believes that Sea Lion Cove will bring in many more people, including some schools.

“I’m a member of the zoo so I wanted to come out and support them and their new exhibit,” Ebrahim said. “I think it’s great that they’ve done this for the sea lions. It shows that the zoo really cares about their animals. I think it will definitely bring in more people, possibly people who wouldn’t normally come and maybe some more schools.”

Castro explains that Sea Lion Cove was not the first new exhibit built with the money from Measure Z, a tax for zoo improvement in 2004, but is the first major renovation. She also shares the future of the old sea lion exhibit.

“Without Measure Z, Sea Lion Cove would not be possible,” Castro said. “Stingray Bay was the first exhibit built with the money, but Sea Lion Cove is the first major exhibit funded by the measure. Currently, we are working on an otter exhibit. We will renovate the area where the sea lions used to be, and put African river otters in that exhibit.”

Megan (last name withheld) an aquatic mammal specialist, thinks that the new exhibit is far better for the animals than their old one, and believes it shows visitors that the zoo cares about its animals.

“We wanted something new and better,” Megan said. “The old exhibit wasn’t big enough for the sea lions and harbor seals. However, we could not have done any of this without those who supported Measure Z. I think this proves that we did exactly what we said we would do with the extra money, which is putting the money towards the care of the animals.”

Castro reveals other zoo renovations planned for the near future. These plans include new animals and an expansion of the zoo into Roeding Park.

“It should be complete by the end of the year,” Castro said. “Shortly after, we will construct a king cobra exhibit, and in the big picture, we plan to expand the zoo with our Africa exhibit, nearly doubling the zoo’s size.”

For more information, visit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

For more features, read the Aug. 30 article
Bimat juggles multiple jobs, energizes leadership class (VIDEO).

The Fresno Chaffee Zoo opened the Sea Lion Cove exhibit, Aug. 27, after over a year of planning and a year of construction.

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