Friday, 27 February 2009

Zoo opening new exhibit to members

The latest addition to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is opening to members this weekend, and it's got a couple of really big lizards. Asian Bamboo Gardens and the komodo dragon exhibit won't open to the public until March 6, and we'll have more info on it next week.

But it opens to zoo members Saturday and Sunday, so here's a brief look at what's there:

- Two komodo dragons. One is 6 years old and 7 feet long, the other is 16 years old and 10 feet long. The larger one is just about full grown. They're both males and won't be on display in the same space at the same time.

- The Asian garden will have more than 100 plant varieties, but the emphasis will be on bamboo.

- There will also be lotus and koi ponds, a stream and waterfall.

The zoo opens each day at 9 a.m., but the members' preview won't begin until 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, it'll close until the grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m. March 6.

The exhibit was built at a cost of $4 million, and is the first phase of what could be the zoo's most ambitious project yet. Called Monsoon Asia, it is eventually planned to have tigers, sun bears and orangutans. But the full project has a price tag of $25 million to $30 million and will be built as the money is raised.