Zoo breaks ground on its future Africa exhibit

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SAN DIEGO -- Ground was broken Wednesday on a $68 million exhibit at the San Diego Zoo that will showcase the various aspects of Africa.

The eight-acre Africa Rocks project -- billed as the largest in the zoo's history -- will include several types of African habitats, including a West African forest, acacia woodlands, Ethiopian highlands, kopje gardens and a Madagascar habitat.

The exhibit will be home to mammals, reptiles, birds and plant life native to Africa, featuring a range of primates, including hamadryas and gelada baboons, vervet monkeys and lemurs. Other mammals in the exhibit will include southern ratel, fossa and an African leopard.

Reptiles will include dwarf crocodiles, Agama lizards and spurred tortoises.

More than 4,500 people have donated to the project, led by San Diego philanthropists Ernest Rady and Conrad Prebys, whose name will be attached to the exhibit.

Prebys gave $11 million and Rady $10 million. Dan and Vi McKinney gave $5 million in support of a penguin habitat, which will house a breeding program.

"We want Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks to showcase Africa, where wildlife and habitat are being threatened like never before,'' said Douglas Myers, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global.

"The new area has been designed with some innovative exhibit features that demonstrate San Diego Zoo's leadership in animal welfare and give us some amazing storytelling opportunities, to help connect people to wildlife,'' he said.

The project will replace the 1930s-era grottos and cages in an area of the park once known as Cat and Dog Canyon. Animals that used to be there have been moved to other spaces.

Africa Rocks is scheduled to open in two years.

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