Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Zoo Has Big Plans for 100th Year; Anniversary Celebration, New Land of the Tiger Exhibit Coming Later This Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Zoo Has Big Plans for 100th Year; Anniversary Celebration, New Land of the Tiger Exhibit Coming Later This Year

Article excerpt

Byline: David Crumpler

The birth of the Jacksonville Zoo 100 years ago could scarcely have been more humble.

It started in Springfield in an area near Third and Broad streets with the donation of one red deer fawn.

Later, several domestic animals were added and a "monkey island" was created.

The zoo moved to its present location bordering the Trout River in 1925. There were 85 animals on 37 1/2 acres. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, as it is now known, now occupies more than 90 acres and is home to 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 varieties of plants.

Officials from the public and private sector marked the beginning of the zoo's 100th year with a news conference Thursday. They praised the zoo's expanding role in education and conservation as it continues to be a major draw for visitors - 816,000 people passed through the gates during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

And they pointed to events scheduled for the months ahead that should help make the zoo's 100th year a memorable one.

The first is the opening in March of the Land of the Tiger exhibit, "the biggest project in the zoo's history," said Tony Vecchio, the zoo's executive director.

The second is a weekend-long anniversary celebration May 11-12.

The $9.5 million tiger exhibit is the second phase of the zoo's Asia Precinct expansion, which began in 2009 with the Asian Bamboo Gardens and the Komodo Dragon Exhibit. It will include two rare and endangered Sumatran tigers, which will likely be used for breeding, and three endangered Malayan tigers (they are brothers, brought here from the Palm Beach Zoo), the endangered Visayan warty pigs and babirusa pigs, Asian small-clawed otters and wrinkled and wreathed hornbills.

The exhibit is scheduled to open March 8-9.

During his remarks, Vecchio cited two important animal conservation events from 100 years ago. …

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