The popular giraffe-feeding exhibit at the Abilene Zoo is under construction for major improvements and won’t be open again until fall 2015.
With plans that amount to $3.8 million, the behind-the-scenes construction project has already begun. The giraffes will stay in and around their new barn while the new Giraffe Safari exhibit is being built.
The animals will be within view during the construction phase, but people will not be able to feed them.
Zoo Director Bill Gersonde said the current exhibit was outdated and no longer met professional standards.
The bridge is a safety hazard to the giraffes because it is too low. The giraffes must duck to pass underneath.
“There is a risk that the animals could damage their horns or any part of their heads on the current bridge,” Gersonde said.
The new exhibit will double the size of the current facility, allowing the zoo to add to the giraffe family. A new covered feeding deck, bridge, viewing areas, barn and the addition of three smaller exhibits of African animals, including Colobus monkeys, will complete the exhibit.
Since the new exhibit will allow more space, the zoo will begin a giraffe-breeding program. They will receive the male giraffe, which is 18 feet tall, in the upcoming weeks.
The highlight of the exhibit will be the new feeding deck where visitors will share an eye-to-eye experience with the giraffes as they hand-feed them.
“Feeding the giraffe is one of folks’ favorite experiences from a visit to the zoo, so we know people will be disappointed that they won’t be able to do that for a year,” said Kelly Langford Thompson, marketing and development coordinator of the Abilene Zoo.
The zoo launched two fundraising campaigns to raise money for the project – Buy-a-Spot and the Tall Neck Club.
The Buy-a-Spot campaign for individuals and businesses consists of several levels of giving beginning at $100. The name of the donor, or the donor’s designee, will be displayed on permanent signage at the new exhibit.
“It will be a vast improvement,” said Thompson.