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Tucson zoo prepares to start next phase of expansion

TUCSON, Ariz. — Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo is taking the next steps in an ambitious decade-long, $80 million expansion plan.

The zoo is adding more acres this spring to accommodate a bigger tiger habitat, an aviary and other improvements, the Arizona Daily Star reported. The incoming new animal dwellers will include red pandas, fishing cats, sloth bears and a Komodo dragon. This phase of the project has been branded the “Pathways to Asia” expansion.

“The old Reid Park Zoo, in the ’70s with its small enclosures, is no longer acceptable,” said Zoo President and CEO Nancy Kluge. “These animals are intelligent and deserve to have the best space that will not only meet their physical means, but their emotional and mental needs as well.”

The entire yearslong renovation is primarily funded by a voter-approved sales-tax increase from 2017. Under the measure, the higher tax will gather between $8 million and $10 million in funding each year for zoo improvements.

The zoo has been communicating with other zoos and national groups to have new animals relocated to Tucson. Some birds that will reside in the new aviary have already arrived.

“We select species with several things in mind, and one is the need for space when talking to the other zoos and finding animals that we can provide more space for,” Kluge said.

Changes expected to be completed by the end of the year include a new Flamingo Lagoon at the park’s entrance and the building of a Welcome Plaza.

Reid Park Zoo has been in Tucson for more than 50 years. Some of these improvements have been a long time coming. Some of the current infrastructure like water and electricity lines are more than 60 years old, according to Kluge.

.Zoo officials say the 3-1/2-acre expansion for “Pathways to Asia” won’t disturb any nearby wildlife. They have been in communication with state Game & Fish Department staff and other officials.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik, whose district includes the zoo, applauded the expansion plans.

“This is about improving the habitat for the animals, enhancing the experience for visitors to the zoo, and most importantly to me it will continue the great work in animal conservation the zoo is involved with,” Kozachik said.

The “Pathways to Asia” expansion is scheduled to finish in the early part of 2023.

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