ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A sprawling new addition to the Albuquerque zoo is taking a giant step forward. Visitors will still have to wait more than a year to see the finished Australia Exhibit, but officials say the zoo is looking to spend more than half a million dollars just on the artwork to help bring it to life.
“Guests at the BioPark will be able to be totally immersed in Australia,” BioPark Guest Experience Manager Allyson Zahm said.
Pending approval from the city council, Boomalli Consulting would get the contract to design and create murals, like one at the zoo entrance, and indigenous artifacts like boomerangs, musical instruments, and vessels for the exhibit, to teach BioPark visitors about Australia’s Aboriginal culture.
“We want to be sure we’re true to the people of Australia: their culture, their amazing connection with the animals on their land,” Zahm said.
More than $555,000 from the BioPark Tax would pay for this contract, with the art expected to be finished by July 2022.
This comes as officials are giving a first look at the entire Australia project.
“They will get to meet amazing animals like kangaroos, crocodiles, koalas, and even some new penguins,” Zahm said.
Crews will remodel the former seal and sea lion exhibit to house sea birds and new Blue Penguins.
“They’re about the size of a water bottle. They’re tiny and very well adapted to Albuquerque’s temperature,” Zahm added.
The Tasmanian Devil and wombat space will be expanded; and the zoo hopes to bring back koalas for the first time in years. Plus, guests will be able to walk through a kangaroo and wallaby garden. But, the main attraction will be a brand new space for the crocodiles.
“The saltwater croc is going to get a brand new building with a nice big pool. There will be some areas indoors where you can view some crocodiles. There will be some areas outdoors,” Zahm said.
The estimated price tag for the entire exhibit is more than $17 million, covered by the voter-approved BioPark Tax and the BioPark Society. They hope to break ground by July and have it finished by fall of 2022.
Another upcoming attraction is the Asia exhibit, which is expected to partially open this fall. The Americas will be another project further down the line.