Animal house 

above American Bald Eagle at the zoo

The Oklahoma City Zoo will be getting some major renovations under a new master plan approved by the City Council at its Dec. 21 meeting.

In addition, zoo-goers will also see ticket and membership price increases, with single-day tickets going up by $1 and annual membership prices increasing by $5 or $10. Dwight Scott, CEO and executive director of the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, said the zoo will complete the last remaining project in its current master plan by 2013, around the time that the first attraction under the new master plan will also be opened.

The remaining project under the old master plan is Expedition Asia, which will feature a wide variety of species from the continent. A new elephant exhibit, which will be one of the key features of the completed Expedition Asia project, is slated to open this spring, Scott said.

The first project expected to be completed under the new master plan is a new veterinary hospital that will allow guests to observe as zoo staff perform procedures on animals.

“It’s like getting a behind-the-scenes look that nobody ever gets to see,” said Tara Henson, spokeswoman for the zoo.

Another project under the new master plan includes a new combined giraffe exhibit, restaurant and event center, scheduled for completion in 2015. The African lodge-themed building housing the restaurant will also include a deck from which visitors can feed the giraffes, Scott said.

The remaining projects include converting the zoo’s current restaurant into a herpetarium, which is scheduled for com pletion in 2017, and renovation of the Noble Aquatic Center, which is estimated to be completed in 2019, Scott said.

The fee and membership changes, which will go into effect in January, are to help pay for the new exhibits and additions to the zoo, Scott said.

The new entrance fees are $8 for adults, children $5 and seniors $5.

Annual memberships, which vary in cost depending on membership level, will go up $5 at the junior level and $10 in all other categories, said Dana McCrory, executive director of Oklahoma Zoological Society.

The zoo has not had a fee increase since 2006. The Oklahoma City Zoological Trust and zoo management considered raising the fees last year to help pay for the recently opened Children’s Zoo, but decided to hold off because of the economic climate, Scott said.

The entrance fees will remain among the lowest in the country, when compared to other zoos with similar sized budgets, Scott said.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is one of only eight in the nation accredited as both a zoo and a botanical garden, Scott said.

City Council members, who unanimously passed the measures, praised the plans and work.

“To me, there’s no question that this zoo is moving to a state of excellence,” said Councilman Sam Bowman. “You talk about the San Diego Zoo, and then after that, we’re right up there.”

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