The first phase of a $100 million construction project at the Fort Worth Zoo will provide new homes for giraffes, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses, and future improvements are in the works for other animals.
"There's virtually no area that is going untouched," said Fort Worth Zoo communications director Alexis Wilson. "Every part of the zoo is seeing some kind of major improvement."
The one exception is the Museum of Living Art, which is just seven years old, she said.
When the project is done next year, the hippos will get a 148-foot-long river. Visitors will be able to see them under water, through a 70-foot window.
The zoo has two rhinos now, but will have room for five – with each getting a new yard.
A new building under construction will house the giraffes. The doorways are 16-feet high, but a few of the giraffes will still have to duck to get in and out.
"We're really excited not only about what's happening with our exhibit space, what it will do for our animals, but also the opportunities for interacting with the public," Wilson said.
For example, visitors will be eye to eye with the giraffes and will be able to feed them.
Some of the money for the project came from large donors like the Bass family.
But many smaller donations have also been made by zoo patrons and even from children selling lemonade, Wilson said.
About $94 million of the $100 million has already been raised.
The next phase of the construction will triple the size of the elephant yard.
Managers hope the improvements will boost the zoo's already high national reputation.
A recent survey by USA Today ranked the Fort Worth Zoo the fourth-best in the country.
"We're looking at No. 1," Wilson said.