Friday, October 11, 2013

San Diego Zoo's New "Africa Rocks" (How's That For Cutting Edge Education, Without A Trace Of 'Show Business?)

As the San Diego Zoo approaches its centennial in 2016, it announced plans for a new 8-acre Africa exhibit on Friday. At the announcement ceremony, Ernest Rady was recognized for his exceptional contribution to support the new exhibit, which will debut in spring of 2017. Mr. Rady has pledged to contribute a $10 million challenge grant. In order to receive the gift, the Zoo must raise $20 million of matching funds in the next 25 months.

Ernest Rady, a long-time philanthropist with a passion for children and education, will help create this unique experience that includes Rady Falls and Madagascar Habitat. The 65-foot-tall Rady Falls will be the largest man-made waterfall in San Diego and will feature the world’s smallest crocodile, the dwarf crocodile. Madagascar Habitat will showcase seven species of lemurs, including the red ruffed lemur and the elusive aye-aye, the largest nocturnal primate on Earth.

“Ernest Rady’s challenge gift is remarkable,” said Doug Myers, San Diego Zoo CEO and president. “The San Diego Zoo was created by Dr. Harry Wegeforth almost 100 years ago for the children of San Diego. Mr. Rady follows in Dr. Wegeforth’s footsteps by making possible a new, unique experience for children of all ages that provides them with opportunities to explore more than five different African habitats.”

The Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks exhibit will replace Dog and Cat Canyon, one of the oldest zones of the Zoo. Most of the exhibits in this area were built in the 1940s. These older displays will be replaced with beautiful new homes for some of the Zoo’s most popular African animal and plant species, and will provide the Zoo with the opportunity to include species that haven’t been seen on site for over 30 years—as well as some animal species that have never been seen in San Diego before.

Africa Rocks will contain a wide diversity of habitats from the savanna to the shore, which will offer up-close views of more than 50 different African animal species from the smallest of the insects to the largest of the carnivores. The Africa forest habitat will feature patas and vervet monkeys and a dazzling diversity of African birds, from colorful carmine bee-eaters to the largest of the hornbills, the southern ground hornbill. Visitors will be able to observe as one of nature’s most amazing animal architects, the sociable weaver, builds one of the largest nests in the world that could eventually weigh more than a ton. The exhibit will offer fun, engaging activities for children as well as opportunities for them to meet animal caretakers and see how animals are trained for husbandry needs. The exhibit will also highlight conservation efforts for the species and provide information about how guests can help endangered wildlife.

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