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Repairs to block views at zoo

Exhibits will close as Lowry Park Zoo updates the Asian Domain, which also will get a new name.

By ALDO NAHED
Published June 29, 2006


photo
[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Walkways around the Asian Domain Exhibit at Lowry Park Zoo, featuring Sumatra tigers, are closed for remodeling until the fall. Other animals that will be out of sight: the greater Indian rhinoceros, Sri Lankan sloth bears, Malayan tapirs and the Reeves' muntjacs.

TAMPA - William Deering came to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo with his family on Tuesday hoping to see an anoa, a type of water buffalo.

Instead the Kentucky tourists on summer vacation were greeted by a "closed until September for remodeling" sign and a red wooden fence blocking most of the exhibit's nearly 2 acres.

"I wanted to know what that was," said Deering, 20, referring to the anoa.

A restyling of the Asian Domain exhibit at the Lowry Park Zoo will keep some animals out of sight: the Greater Indian rhinoceros, Sumatran tigers, Sri Lankan sloth bears, Malayan tapirs and the Reeves' muntjacs, a species of small deer.

Visitors may still be able to catch glimpses of the clouded leopard, babirusa pig, Komodo dragon, Asian pythons and the Bactrian camel.

"We closed the entrance, but people can still see some of the animals through the exhibits' perimeter," said Rachel Nelson, a zoo spokeswoman.

Zoo officials say they're excited about the modernization of the exhibit, which is a first since the park reopened in 1988.

"This Asian Domain exhibit is one of our original areas," Nelson said. "Clearly - almost 20 years - it could use a significant amount of renovation."

Hillsborough County commissioners approved advancing $2-million in funding for the zoo improvements, part of $4-million committed in sales tax money from the community investment tax for 2008-2012. Private donations also are supplementing county funds.

The zoo expects to get the other $2-million in the 2008-2012 cycle. That money will go to additional renovations to exhibits and facilities, Nelson said.

When construction is done this fall, expect to call the exhibit by a new name: Asian Gardens.

Guests will get the chance to view the tiger and sloth bear a bit closer, through glass walls, and even be able to feed the tigers, Nelson said.

There will be a new water garden entrance, a walk-through bird and ground mammal aviary, a new tapir garden, waterfalls and an additional exhibit - the bearded pig.

Zoo officials say they envision guests being transported into Southeast Asia's architecture, colors and sounds.

"There will be no theme rides," Nelson said, "just an improvement to the existing area."

The last time the zoo took on a large project was in May of 2004, with the introduction of the 11-acre Safari Africa expansion.

For eight consecutive years, Carole-Ann Keating and her 12-year-old grandson, Harrison Gonyea have visited the zoo. On Tuesday, they said they've seen a big difference over the years and had fun at the Safari Africa ride, where they got close to the animals.

Keating of Sun City Center said the Asian exhibit's temporary closure didn't put a damper on their zoo experience.

"I kind of missed it," Keating said, "but it will come back."

Aldo Nahed can be reached at anahed@sptimes.com or 813 310-0998.

What you won't see

Work on the Asian Domain exhibit at the Lowry Park Zoo will keep some animals out of sight: the greater Indian rhinoceros, Sumatran tigers, Sri Lankan sloth bears, Malayan tapirs and the Reeves' muntjacs.

[Last modified June 29, 2006, 06:36:03]


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