Fresno Chaffee Zoo plans to begin African Adventure

FRESNO, Calif.

Tuesday, the Zoo Authority gave its annual report to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

"We had 580,000 visitors, an all-time record breaking previous record in 2011 by 13 percent. This was above our budget numbers, it was above expectations," Scott Barton, the Executive Director of Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

Zoo officials say they're now ready to embark on an "African Adventure." On Tuesday, Fresno County Supervisors got a look at the new 12-acre exhibit.

Barton said, "We want to continue that high bar in Africa and really the exhibits in Africa are as good as anybody's building is in the world."

The exhibit would expand the zoo and bring back lions, breeding elephants and cheetahs.

Zoo officials say all of this is possible by Measure Z dollars, which is bringing in an additional $10 million a year from taxpayers. The measure is up for vote again in 2014.

"Right now we will be able to open the new Africa exhibit, the children's water play area, we'll be able to open several other smaller exhibits like the king cobras and otters, all with the money we have right now," said Barton.

While zoo officials feel confident they have the finances to expand, they have a few steps to get the project finalized. "There was a lawsuit we won that. There wasn't an appeal. From a legal standpoint we are moving forward. We need one approval from the California State Parks," said Barton.

If all goes well, crews could break ground on the exhibit this year and the first phase of the African Adventure could be open to the public in 2014.

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