Crews officially got started on the 18 acre African Adventure exhibit Monday. The new exhibit will feature a brand new state-of-the art home for African lions, a family herd of elephants as well as cheetahs, rhinos and meerkats.
"I think it's pretty awesome for the kids to have more to see and stuff. We come all the time and they're really excited about it," Bridget Castillo from Fresno said.
The attraction will also include a new feeding station for giraffes. That exhibit will include 360 degree views of grassy African plains and savannas complete with a new dine-in restaurant, which will also serve as a rest area for visitors.
"I think that's an excellent idea because right now all of it is out in the open so in the summer it's really hot and the winter really cold so that will be really nice to have something indoors," Debbie Sharp from Clovis said.
Zoo officials say the new African Adventure will provide interactive play spaces and education for all ages. It will also create jobs and a premier tourist destination in the Western United States.
"This new African exhibit will be nothing short of amazing and it puts us on a path to probably be one of the best zoos in the country," Fresno Chaffee Zoo Board Member Sheri Rainwater said. "They're going to have lots of space. We're going to be able to do breeding and conservation studies and participate with zoos across the country, and the education value to kids in this county is going to be second to none."
The project was made possible by funds generated by Measure Z which was passed by voters in November 2004. It is expected to be complete by fall of next year.
Once the nearly $56 million African Adventure is complete crews are expected to break ground on a new space for gorillas.