ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – People who have been to the zoo lately have seen the giant construction zone. A behind-the-scenes look reveals just how intensive that work is on the new Asia exhibit. “We’re bringing in all the utilities and as you can see there’s some vertical construction going up for the elephant observation deck,” said Brandon Gibson, the deputy director for the Department of Arts and Culture.
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A view of the back of the elephant barn from Tingley reveals the massive dirt mounds and even a large pile of cottonwood trunks that were aging and removed to make room for the Asia region expansion, starting with a 3,350 square foot deck overlooking the elephant yard. “It’ll be great for the kids to be able to see the elephants up close,” Isaiah Nixon of Albuquerque explained.
That project still needs a roof, and work on the trails and access before opening to the public this fall. “It’s going to be a great place for gatherings, rentals, and events, as well,” Gibson added.
It’s only the first phase of the massive $29 million makeover for the zoo’s Asia exhibit. The rendering shows some of the original ideas laid out in what the city has called a “fluid” master plan didn’t make the cut, including a pond for the elephants.
However, officials at the groundbreaking back in May gave a preview of the visitor experience. “They will be over the walkways so as the public are walking down the pathways there’s going to be a tiger sitting over their head looking down on them,” Zoo Manager Lynn Tupa said.
Zoogoers are already looking forward to new homes for some of their favorites. “To see the snow leopards in a bigger exhibit,” Nixon stated.
Plus, there will be more space for the sea eagles. All of these sweeping changes are expected to open in December 2022. “I’ve been coming since I was a kid and to see it expanded throughout the years is just marvelous,” Brian Nixon of Albuquerque said.
Since the state fully reopened July 1, the zoo said its attendance has been about 80-percent of normal.