JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Zoo hopes to become one of the top zoos in the country.
It’s working to raise $50 million in five years to help make that happen. It is the largest financial campaign in the zoo’s history.
The “Re-ZOO-Venation will involve revamping some of the older exhibits and making a major first impression.
“What the Sydney Opera House does for Australia, this will do for Jacksonville,” said Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens executive director Tony Vecchio.
The main entrance will move to where the education center is. The new main entrance is expected to be the zoo’s main attraction.
“As they get through these gardens, that’s going be that beautiful, immersive new entry,” said Vecchio. “It’s like nothing anyone in Jacksonville has seen before.
The first exhibit will be a Florida favorite. The Manatee River will give visitors a panoramic view of their habitat, but Vecchio says the exhibit is for more than looks-- it will also help the zoo rescue more injured manatees.
“Every manatee is considered wild, and the goal is to get them back into the wild,” Vecchio said. “There will be manatees so they can go back to the wild.”
Plans also include adding a state-of-the-art lion exhibit, along with a new education campus, an expanded elephant habitat, and bringing in a new species entirely: orangutans.
This fundraising effort is separate from the Zoo-A-Thon. News4Jax helped broadcast that event on Sunday.
This year it raised nearly $92,000, far short of its $350,000 goal. The money from that fundraiser goes toward feeding animals, maintaining the plants, and zoo programs.