ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – School is out across New Mexico, making the Albuquerque Zoo one of the most popular places in the state for kids and families this time of year. But if you go, you’ll also notice there’s plenty of construction going on around the property.
So what’s being built out? And what new animals can you expect soon at the city-owned Zoo? KRQE News 13 recently got an update on some of the biggest projects you’ll see and when they might open.
Some of the major construction is surrounding the new Asia exhibit. The city says it hopes to open “phase two of the project” by Spring 2023.
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“It’s going to be amazing new habitats for snow leopards, tigers, siamangs and orangutans,” said Brandon Gibson, Deputy Director of the Albuquerque Arts & Culture Department. “We are kind of shifting [how exhibits are built out], instead of having animals in set, species categories, we’re gonna have more focus on continental or regional habitats.”
The new Asia habitats will also join in with the newer elephant viewing area with an overlook and space for events. The Asia project in its entirety is estimated to cost around $28-million.
The Asia expansion is also expected to create bigger, more natural homes for the zoo’s resident big cats. That also includes a new overlook for visitors.
Australia is another area that the city is continuing construction on. Phase one of that project is underway. “We have a lot of demos going on right now in preparation for a new [Australia] home,” Gibson said. “We’re going to have an amazing new aviary and little blue penguins in the old seals habitat.”
Native to areas around New Zealand and southern Australia, the blue penguins are only about 10-inches tall and two pounds each. The Australia exhibit’s phase one construction is also expected to finish and open to the public by Spring 2023.
The city is also looking at breathing new life into the front entrance of the zoo. Preliminary designs show the city is hoping to build a long entryway with shaded canopies for families and groups to stand under. The city is also looking into revamping the ticketing area. Work on that project could start in 2023.
The large projects at the zoo are being funded with gross receipts tax revenue passed by Albuquerque taxpayers. In October 2015, Albuquerque voters passed an eighth (1/8) cent gross receipt tax to help fund improvements at the BioPark for the next 15 years. The tax started collecting revenue for the BioPark on July 1, 2016.
The city initially estimates it should generate about $16-million a year over the life of the tax. The tax in part enabled the city to build the popular Penguin Chill exhibit. Over the last year, the tax generated around $19-million.