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Texas Zoo undergoes makeover, rebuilds lemur exhibit among other renovations

By Gheni_Platenburg
Nov. 30, 2010 at 5:30 a.m.
Updated Dec. 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.


Big renovations are under way for the Texas Zoo, including a new and improved exhibit for the zoo's displaced lemurs.

Groundbreaking on the lemurs' new home, which was damaged by a fallen pecan tree in September, began on Nov. 16.

"It just seemed like the most logical thing to do. We didn't want to just rebuild the same exhibit," said Andrea Blomberg, executive director of the zoo. "We're just ecstatic."

The zoo received private and corporate donations to pay for the new lemur exhibit, which will cost around $18,000.

The new exhibit, which is expected to be more energy efficient and animal and keeper friendly than the old one, will include interpretive, educational opportunities. It will house not only the lemurs, but also the spider monkeys and tamarins, forming the new small primate exhibit.

It is expected to open in January.

Since the tree incident occurred, the two ring-tailed lemurs, two black and white lemurs and one red ruffed lemur had all been doing just fine living in holding and quarantine areas, said Blomberg.

However, zoo staff are still saddened over the loss of Molly, a 24-year-old black and white lemur who passed away in early November.

"It had nothing to do with where they are living right now. They have appropriate food, heat and space, everything they need. They are just not on display to the general public," said Blomberg, who said the average lifespan of lemurs is 26 years. "It was just her time."

Despite the back-to-back lemur tragedies, zoo staff has been busy turning negatives into positives by making major redesign changes throughout the zoo.

One of the largest changes will be reorganizing the animals by species, instead of the current geographic locations.

An owl and hawk exhibit, exotic bird exhibit, murals and lion den and education building expansions are also forthcoming in 2011.

"We've always got something else in the works," said Jan Dunaway, the zoo's curator. "We're already planning on more stuff."

Blomberg said the redesign aids the zoo in getting its Association of Zoos and Aquariums accreditation.

"It's like the stamp of approval that you can interact with other AZA zoos in trading animals, acquisitions, breeding programs and conservation programs," said Blomberg, who stressed that AZA accreditation is not mandatory, but helpful when it comes to the zoo fulfilling its mission.

The zoo is seeking skilled carpenters and laborers to volunteer with the current and upcoming projects.

"It's easier when we feel the community is supporting us," said Jay Gregston, zoo operations manager. "It makes us feel good inside when people come to provide help when we need it."

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