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Zoo eager to begin Africa area


The issuance of $13 million in bonds will enable the Toledo Zoo to get moving on its African-themed exhibit, the largest and most costly it's ever undertaken. The exhibit, on the west side of the Anthony Wayne Trail, will have six giraffes, impalas, kudus, cranes, vultures, and ostriches along with a new cheetah exhibit.

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The Toledo Zoo intends to jumpstart construction of its African-themed exhibit - the largest and most costly it has ever undertaken - by issuing $13 million in bonds.

Waymon Usher, economic development director for Lucas County, told county commissioners yesterday the zoo soon will ask them to allow the bonds to be sold.

Bill Dennler, executive director of the zoo, said the exhibit will include six giraffes, a herd of impalas, kudus (a large antelope with horns), cranes, vultures, and ostriches. A cheetah exhibit will be built to replace the old one.

The $20 million project will sit on a 4.5-acre site on the west side of the Anthony Wayne Trail near the zoo's polar bear exhibit.

“I'm really excited about this,” Mr. Dennler said. “This will complete the other side of the zoo, and it allows us to bring species back that we don't have here anymore and to exhibit them as a group.”

The county has to approve the issuance of the bonds even though no county money is at stake. The bonds will be covered by a 10-year, $54 million levy the zoo receives.

The bond sale shouldresult in an infusion of cash that might allow the project to be completed by spring or summer of 2004.

“This is going to allow us to build Africa now rather than four years from now,” Mr. Dennler said.

Apart from the bond money, the rest of the costs will be covered from zoo revenue, levy income, and private donations.

As part of the project, the zoo's train will be moved across the street. Mr. Dennler said the rides will be longer and will feature educational talks about the animals in the Africa exhibit.

“We're going to create a totally different train experience,” Mr. Dennler said.

The site will include a carousel that will have handcrafted African animals, which are being built in Mansfield, Ohio.

Zoo spokeswoman Andi Norman said the site will be more open than patrons are used to and continues the trend away from barred exhibits.

“We're getting away from seeing animals in cages,” she said.

The 10-year plan, which is due to be finished by 2005, has included the construction of such things as the Arctic exhibit, a bridge across the Trail, a plaza, and a wolf exhibit that hasn't opened yet.

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