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Zoo Knoxville announces new $18M, 2.5 acre reptile, amphibian habitat

APRIL 10, 2019

Zoo Knoxville announces new $18M, 2.5 acre reptile, amphibian habitat

Maggie Jones, Knoxville News Sentinel

Published 6:15 p.m. ET April 10, 2019 | Updated 9:57 p.m. ET April 10, 2019

 

Zoo Knoxville’s reptiles and amphibians will receive a new $18 million, 2.5-acre home.

The zoo announced the project and a $5 million gift from Jim Clayton and FirstBank during a ceremonial groundbreaking event Wednesday evening.

The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Campus (ARCC) will support the zoo’s “internationally recognized work with critically endangered amphibians and reptiles,” according to a press release from Zoo Knoxville.

It will feature a 2.5-acre campus that will be where the bird aviary is now, according to Zoo Knoxville Director of Communications Tina Rolen. She said the zoo aims to start construction in August.

Here’s a list of what the campus will offer, according to the release.

  • A 12,000-square-foot reptile facility;
  • A new species of Cuban crocodiles;
  • A greenhouse where guests can watch herpetologists, who study amphibians and reptiles, working at the zoo;
  • An outdoor ecological habitat where kids can collect specimens and take them to an “adventure lab” to explore

Zoo Knoxville will name the campus the Clayton Family ARC Campus in honor of Clayton’s commitment to the zoo and the community.

The reptile facility will be named the FirstBank ARC Center because of “FirstBank’s support of the important conservation work the building will showcase,” the release said.

“The use of the ARCC acronym for the new campus is a reflection of the role Zoo Knoxville has as a modern-day ‘ark’ and the work being done to save animals from extinction,” the release said.

Zoo Knoxville’s herpetology team is internationally acclaimed and helped found the “Radiated Tortoise SAFE program, which is working in collaboration with conservationists in Madagascar to return rehabilitated tortoises to the wild,” the release said.

New habitat in the works since 2014

A new home for the park’s vast collection of reptiles and amphibians has been desired for many years. This new reptile and amphibian complex is a key part of the zoo’s master plan that was announced in 2014.

The plan involves renovating and upgrading large sections of the zoo. Those projects include an endangered tiger exhibit, a reptile habitat and others.

The announcement of the habitat also comes after the deaths of 34 Zoo Knoxville reptiles in March 2017. The zoo determined an unknown toxic agent killed the reptiles, which included rattlesnakes, boas, a blue-tongued skink and a Gila monster.

Other master plan projects

Other projects from the zoo’s master plan include a habitat for gibbons and langur monkeys that opened March 2018. Their habitats are a part of the Boyd Family Asian Trek exhibit at the zoo.

Asian Trek also houses Tiger Forest, which opened in April 2017.

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