By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times
Building plans for the Birmingham Zoo are ongoing, according to Roger Torbert, Vice President of Education.
In June, the zoo held a ribbon cutting and grand opening of the New Arrival Experience and Welcome Plaza, which includes the Hugh Kaul Plaza, a first-aid station, administrative offices, rental space, a larger gift shop, a new membership office, and the Altec/Styslinger Learning Center.
“As you go through, … there’s a big … welcome plaza [that serves as] a place where you can orient yourself when you walk into the zoo because … you can see the entire layout of the zoo,” he said.
Those efforts were the second part of a three-phase, $18 million Renew the Zoo plan. The first phase, Henley Park was completed in 2017, and the final phase—the new Arrival Experience and Asian Passage, which will have exhibits for endangered Asian animals—slated for 2021.
Asian Passage will focus on animals of Asia, such as orangutans “who are currently [housed] inside,” Torbert said “We’re going to be bringing them to an outdoor exhibit.”
The zoo also plans to bring in a Komodo dragon and develop a larger exhibit space with red pandas, tigers, and smaller cat species, such as Pallas’s cats.
“[The new exhibit] will be focused on Asian animals, Asian culture, and conservation–related issues that involve Asian animals in general,” Torbert said.
The zoo already has a rental facility for events and decks for parties and meetings, as well as the plaza and park. Improvements include upgrading fencing for safety, enhancing exhibits, and adding new exhibits, said Chris Pfefferkorn, the zoo’s president and CEO. For instance, Alabama Wilds, the zoo’s native–animal collection, is in the process of adding a Golden Eagle exhibit.
“By building a new habitat in Alabama Wilds, we can move them out of the [Predator Building], which frees up space for construction, so we can do some good education and interpretation about these birds that come from northern Alabama and reside here,” Torbert said.
Other projects down the road include a new treetop ropes course and renovations to the flamingo exhibit to provide more habitat for breeding.
“We have a large flock that produced some eggs last year, and they’re just starting to get into a reproduction mode,” Pfefferkorn said. “We’re going to renovate that … to have a bigger pool, bigger space for them to … nest in. Then we’re going to create an area where folks will be able to come in and be in with a couple of flamingos at a time to get the experience of being one-on-one with a flamingo.”