New zoo exhibit drawing big crowds

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Nearly a month after the Chaffee Zoo opened their new African Adventures exhibit zoo officials are reporting a record number of visitors.

On a cool autumn Monday morning at Fresno's Chaffee Zoo, a steady crowd of visitors were on hand to see the latest attraction. Since the new exhibit opened last month zoo officials say attendance hit 90,000, that's up nearly 200-percent from the same time last year. "October is normally a 40 to 50,000 person month you know-- slowing down because it gets cooler and our hours change, but because of Africa opening on the 15th numbers are incredible," said Alisha Anderson, Chief Marketing and Development Chaffee Zoo.

A record number of visitors walking through the gates of the Chaffee Zoo means more parking is needed. Temporary parking lots have been set up on a near- by grass area of Roeding Park, and at the old K-Mart on Olive Avenue, with a shuttle to take visitors directly to the zoo. But those are short-term solutions. Plans are in the works to add 2 to 300 parking spots at the old city yard near the zoo. "So any money that's being spent on parking is the zoo using our own money, our own earned revenue, and a lot of times if it is in the park it is shared cost between the zoo and the city because the park belongs to the city," said Anderson.

The executive director of the Chaffee Zoo, Scott Barton, said the addition of the African Adventures exhibit doubled the size of the zoo, and, it is attracting 6 to 7,000 visitors each weekend. "What's even better than the attendance is the reviews. We're seeing people come out and love this exhibit and spend hours wandering through it. And really enjoying the animals and the staff here."

The new addition has some people paying the zoo a visit for the first time in several year. "We wanted to come see the new safari adventure. I had a few friends who had been here before when it first opened up. They said it was great. I actually keep hearing about it at work and everything-- so really glad I had the day off to come see it," said Megan Letson, Fresno.
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