The Abilene Zoo will open its new giraffe exhibit to the public on Saturday after four years of planning and construction.
The Abilene Zoo has had a giraffe exhibit since 1968 when zoo officials purchased two females. For nearly 50 years, zoo-goers fed the giraffes crackers from the “Highneck Bridge” before the renovation of the exhibit. In order to meet the updated safety requirements for the giraffes’ care, the Abilene Zoo expanded the exhibit, costing $3.8 million.
“The community was wildly supportive,” said Kelly Langford Thompson, marketing and development coordinator at the Abilene Zoo. “Nearly 1,000 different groups and individuals contributed financially to the campaign.”
The new exhibit will be called Giraffe Safari and will be twice the size of the old exhibit. Giraffe Safari will provide plenty of open space for the giraffes to live more comfortably. The exhibit is designed to resemble the savannah, which will allow guests to see more natural habits of the animals in a more real habitat.
The giraffe exhibit is a multi-species exhibit where guests will still have the opportunity to feed the giraffes. The exhibit will contain six giraffes and a large covered feeding deck where the African species will come up to be fed romaine lettuce and interact with the guests. In order to feed the giraffes, guests may purchase Giraffe Encounters for $4 at the entrance of the deck.
“I am stoked to go feed some giraffes,” said Bryce Lurkens, freshman convergence journalism major from Frisco. “I have been hearing about how cool the exhibit is going to be, and I can’t wait to go check it out.”
The Abilene Zoo will have a public ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday at 10 a.m. The ceremony will celebrate the African giraffes with a dance troop of international students called “Indangamirwa.” There will also be educational displays about conservation set up near the exhibit to celebrate Earth Day. The exhibit will be open to the public every day from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. with available times for Giraffe Encounters posted daily.