By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Oklahoma City Zoo recently broke ground on Sanctuary Asia, its latest expansion project. The $22 million endeavor is Phase II of the Zoo’s master plan from 2010. The new Sanctuary will create a multipurpose environment, where endangered animals from the Asian continent can thrive while receiving world-class zoological animal care.
Torre Design Consortium, LTD, from New Orleans, Louisiana, will lead as architect for the project and Timberlake Construction from Oklahoma City will complete the construction.
Mayor Mick Cornett was among those attending the ground breaking ceremony. Also present were Cindy Batt, Zoo Trust chairperson; Dave Timberlake, Timberlake Construction chairman; Ace Torre, Torre Design Consortium; Dr. Dwight Lawson, Zoo executive director/CEO; Oklahoma City Zoo Trust Members; Zoo staff; Oklahoma Zoological Society staff members; Tiffany Batdorf, Adventure District manager; Timberlake Construction staff members; and Torre Design Consortium representatives.
Sanctuary Asia will be located in the southwest section of the Zoo adjacent to the existing elephant habitat. It will add 3.5 acres to the elephant herd’s existing 4.5-acre habitat. The Sanctuary will be home to red pandas, Asian rhinos, langurs, Komodo dragons, raccoon dogs, cranes and cassowary birds.
The 6.6-acre expansion was funded through the Zoo’s 1/8 cent sales tax, approved by Oklahoma City voters in 1990. The project is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2018.
“Animals within Sanctuary Asia, like all those within the Zoo, will be safe and free to socialize, eat, play and explore,” said Dr. Dwight Lawson, Zoo executive director/CEO. “Our guests will be able to see existing and new animals from a new perspective. It will be visually stunning and our goal is to inform guest about the urgent plight of these Asian animals in the wild and be moved to take immediate action to protect them.”
Sanctuary Asia will also include a two-story building with windows that reveal an impressive visual experience to remember. The views will include the elephant, rhino and Komodo dragon habitats.
In addition to providing daily food service, the facility is designed for after-hours public and private special events.
The addition of a new water zone will provide children with a splash area for the warm summer months. The landscape design will include native Oklahoma plants, while reflecting the look of an Asian retreat.
According to the Journal Record, Zoo officials say the long term-master plan also includes updates to other exhibits.
“We’re working on the next big project for where the rhinos are and turning that into the Africa exhibit, and the pachyderm building will be event space,” Dwight Lawson, Oklahoma City Zoo executive director, said. “We’re also looking into what’s next for the aquatics building. It needs some TLC.”
Zoo hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $8 for adults, and $5 for children 3 – 11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. To learn more about these and other happenings, call 405-424-3344 or visit www.okczoo.org