Inside Look: What's New, Changing at the NC Zoo?

ASHEBORO, N.C. -- The North Carolina Zoo already is seeing its annual influx of summer visitors, as it readies new attractions and future plans in light of its 40th anniversary.

An August celebration will commemorate the official anniversary, which coincides with the 40th birthday of the NC Zoo's oldest elephant--C'sar. Curator of mammals Guy Lichty explained C'sar has been at the NC Zoo since he was four years old and has been a fan favorite.

Lichty affirmed C'sar's birthday will be a celebratory occasion for NC Zoo employees and fans, who have been grieving the death of Little Diamond--a longtime NC Zoo elephant who passed away last month after a health complication.

Lichty said the the elephants, too, are still coping with the loss of their former herd member but have begun to accept she no longer is with the group. At this time, there are no plans to replace Little Diamond, according to Lichty.

However, the baboon exhibit has three new additions -- babies born within a month of each other in May. The Hamadryas baboons, comprised of 22 animals, make up the largest baboon troop in the country. Keeper Jodi Wiley explained the female baboons have benefited from their babies, as they have begun to break down barriers of their traditionally separate families and formed a closer bond among one another as mothers. Wiley described their connection as a "mothers club."

New plans are in store for the NC Zoo's polar bear Patches, who arrived last November. Animal management supervisor Jeff Owen said construction is underway for an expansion to Patches' exhibit, which he said will allow for Patches more room in a more natural" environment equipped with several chilly streams. He said the exhibit will benefit both Patches and the visitors, who will be able to see her more closely. The NC Zoo intends for the expansion's completion by this fall.

Fall, specifically October, is when the NC Zoo's temporary bug exhibit--"Bugs--An Epic Adventure"--will leave the zoo, so programs coordinator Steve Gerkin encourages families to come out now to enjoy it. The exhibit features over-sized, animated bugs--including a 20-foot tarantula--and also includes a tent full of real insects, many of which are rare. The exhibit is not included in the price of regular admission and costs $5 per person.

The NC Zoo reminds visitors it still has spots open in several of its kids' summer camps, which commence July 8. Schools program coordinator Daniel Banks explained there are various animal camps available for children of a broad age groups. Camps are typically five hours long, cost between $35 and $45 and are categorized by grades one through three, grades four through six and grades seven through eight. Registration can be completed on the NC Zoo's camp web page.



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