CINCINNATI - More of Africa is coming to Cincinnati.
The next phase of a planned $32 million Africa exhibit project should open in southwest Ohio on June 29, in a former parking lot at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden that is being transformed into a place for lions to roam.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that (http://cin.ci/118ow0W) the "Africa" exhibit will eventually take up eight of the zoo's 60 fenced acres. The zoo director says it will be the biggest exhibit the zoo has built.
The exhibit opening this summer will resemble an African savannah, complete with a female lion on loan from the Denver zoo and a male donated by the National Zoo. Two more giraffes are also coming to join the three already at the Cincinnati zoo's Giraffe Ridge.
The exhibit also will have a cheetah area, and future phases will add a grassland and zebras, gazelles, antelope and a hippopotamus area. Zoo Director Thayne Maynard expects those last two phases to open in two years.
"The zoo has long been - for over 30 years - involved in African conservation," Maynard said. "And this is a great way to tell that story: what does it take for lions to survive in the 21st century?"
The zoo has raised $20 million so far in capital project fundraising drives that have drawn donations from corporations, foundations and private sources.
A remodeled zoo restaurant, renamed Base Camp Cafe, will have a deck overlooking the savannah. Its interior capacity has doubled to some 140 seats with outdoor growing from some 70 to 300 seats.
Zoo officials say the restaurant's design and operations are environmentally friendly, with a greenhouse on the deck where chefs can pick fresh herbs and tomatoes. There's also a 300,000-gallon retention basin under the exhibit that is capturing rainwater for recycling
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.