A long-awaited giraffe exhibit will open at the Chattanooga Zoo late this year.
The exhibit will be part of the biggest expansion in the more than 80-year history of the zoo. The zoo held a fundraising campaign in 2015 with hopes of adding this and a lion exhibit. The expansions could take up nearly half of the zoo's 14 acres, according to blueprints of the two new exhibits at the time.
City council approved funding for the expansion last year. The city committed to paying $1 million over five years, with $250,000 approved for the 2018 fiscal year. The total cost for the zoo's expansion is $10 million. The zoo plans to pay the rest through its fundraising efforts.
Work on the vast addition is slated to begin this month following a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, March 26 at noon that is open to the public.
"This new project will allow for the growth of daily activities, educational offerings, and conservation participation," according to a release from zoo director of advancement Hannah Hammon. "These new animals will be incorporated into the zoo's current interactive on-site programming and will be used to build upon new educational opportunities."
There is no word yet on the number of giraffe expected to be included, but the facility will acquire the "appropriate number" through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival plan once construction is completed.
The first phase of the exhibit includes a guest-friendly barn and approximately 4,000 square feet of outdoor lawn for the animals. The barn will include stalls to house the giraffe and other species as needed, according to the release. It will also include behind-the-scenes tours, an indoor day yard, a catwalk for daily animal care and built-in veterinary equipment.
The lawn will be placed alongside the giraffe barn and include an African savanna-inspired habitat.