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Last week, along with three of my FresYes colleagues, I had the exciting privilege of being able to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo‘s African Adventure expansion, while still under construction. A LOT of the work has been completed, and at this point, you can really see what the expansion will look like, and I have to say – it is AMAZING.
I was excited about African Adventure already, but after touring it, I am in complete awe at what is about to be available right here in Fresno. It almost seems too good to be true (but it’s not!).
If you haven’t had a chance to learn about African Adventure at all, you may want to go back to my original post touching on the subject, which you can find here. There you will also find the Zoo’s video rendering of about what the completed expansion will look like to get a visual.
I have to say though, even after watching the rendering, the actual real-life experience is just mind-blowing. The thing that immediately strikes you upon entering the area, is just how much you can see from any one place. Unlike other zoo exhibits, African Adventure literally looks like you’re viewing the wide open savannah. There are no walls dividing habitats, just seamless, nearly invisible barriers separating species that would endanger one another. The land where animals roam is level with the ground you are standing on, however, clever rock formations also at ground level and directly in front of you, camouflage your view of ten foot drops that create barriers between people and animals.
Thanks to our tour guide, Zoo Development and Marketing Director Alisha Anderson, the four of us FresYes-ers were able to see and appreciate how careful the attention to detail is in African Adventure.
There are rocks that are heated and cooled and strategically placed near areas where people will naturally gather to view animals, making it more attractive for the animals to come within close viewing range. The new 360 degree giraffe feeding area allows people to get nose to nose with giraffes, rather than making giraffes bend their necks all the way down to child-height to eat a leaf. The awesome new restaurant patio area looks out over the entire African Adventure area, giving you over 180 degrees of animal viewing to enjoy, while you sit in the shade and savor your lunch. A simulated baobab tree and meerkat home make great places for children to play and experience what it might be like to be an African animal. Families will even be able to traverse a walkway which goes beneath a bridge leading lions from their night home to their play space – just one example of many opportunities allowing Zoo visitors to really get up close to amazing animals.
At this point, the majority of construction is nearly complete, and the emphasis of the crews is currently on finishing all animal areas, so the many species that are now in Fresno acclimating to our weather, will be able to begin the month long transition in their new habitats.
African Adventure will be opening to the public on October 15th, 2015, however, there will be a special members-only early opening as well – so if you’re not already a Zoo member, you really may want to consider becoming one! (Check out the membership packages here.) We just renewed our family membership, and for just $55, the three of us can visit as often as we like for the next year. Something tells me that will be pretty frequently!
The Chaffee Zoo hosted over 700,000 visitors last year, and expects to exceed that by year end in 2015. Measure Z funds have allowed the Zoo to make improvements to existing exhibits for the past ten years, and the recent renewal of Measure Z is allowing for the African Adventure expansion as well as continued improvements Zoo wide. For additional information on Measure Z funds and how they support the Zoo, visit the Fresno County Zoo Authority’s page here.
All photos in this post are used with permission of the Chaffee Zoo. To see more of African Adventure, be sure to mark your calendar for its opening, October 15th!