Seneca Park Zoo preparing grounds and animals for major expansion

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – Monroe County is planning a $121 million expansion at the Seneca Park Zoo. The project calls for a new front entryway building that will host conference rooms and office space, a tropics complex, and a new 220,000-gallon aquarium.

“We expect to be able to begin work, particularly the site work later this year,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello tells News10NBC.

Before breaking ground though, they are working out the best plan to avoid disruption to the animals that already call the zoo home, “animals like the sea lions hear very well underwater and so obviously we don’t want to be jack-hammering or anything that will disrupt them,” explains Zoo Director Steve Lacy.

Zoo keepers are tracking animal behaviors and patterns, “when the construction starts we’ll be doing that for all of our animals, and our keepers are going to keep their eyes on them and say, ‘Hey guys this is a problem we need to address this,’ if they notice any issues and if it means slowing down the construction, that’s what it means,” Lacy adds.

When it comes to bringing in new animals for the Tropics Center and Aquarium, that process is already well underway.

“Olmy the giraffe, for example, we know he won’t stay here long-term so, there’s a zoo out there somewhere that is ready to house a new giraffe and when he gets to the point that he can travel, we’ll move him there,” explains Lacy. “That’s all organized and coordinated inter-zoo and the AZA helps many times so, we’re already in communication with our friends at the AZA and other zoos to say ‘hey we’re looking at orangutans or we’re looking at sharks, what do we have that we’re able to move in?’"

Lacy says they’ve already lined up all of the mammal species that will populate the expansion. The age range of the new animals will vary. “Things like sharks might be a little more difficult to move so, they’ll probably be younger when they get here that sort of thing,” he explains.

The full project will take a few years to complete and it’ll be even longer before zoo-goers will be able to actually visit the animals inside.

“The animals actually need several months to acclimate before you can invite the public in as well so, there will actually be a period probably in a couple of years when it looks done but the animals need some care because at the end of the day they have to be the top priority,” Bello says.

NYS has allocated $42.5 million to the project. Monroe County will likely be picking up the rest of the bill but it’s unclear exactly how much that will be as the Seneca Park Zoo Society is also raising money for the project.