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Changes are in motion at Zoo Idaho.
Recently, zoo staff began preparations for construction of a new wetland exhibit. The new exhibit will be situated where the bison, elk, and pronghorn exhibit was. It will feature 3.5 acres of open water that will transition from wetland to upland vegetation, as well as two nesting islands for trumpeter swans. It will also be ringed by a ten-foot wide walking path for visitors to get a good look at the animals calling it home.
“The primary goal of the wetland exhibit is to establish a breeding pair of trumpeter swans,” said Peter Pruett, Zoo Superintendent. “Zoo Idaho along with United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and other organizations will work towards releasing the pair’s offspring in Eastern Idaho. The hope is that eventually the swans will establish nesting sites within the area.”
Pruett says crews plan to complete grading for the pathway and structures associated with the pond in 2017. Staff will also do two rounds of weed-removal on the site ahead of planting vegetation such cattails, rushes, and sedges, as well as submerged and free floating plants, in 2018.
“Zoo Idaho has a unique opportunity to have a fully functioning, healthy wetland that blurs the line of captive and truly wild wildlife,” Pruett explains. “As the wetland establishes itself, indigenous waterfowl, songbirds, cranes, amphibians, and reptiles will naturally migrate to and use the area. We will also have the ability to develop education and conservation classes that allow students of all ages hands-on activities within a critically important habitat.”
When funding allows, staff plan to add a wetlands education center to the exhibit that will allow zoo-goers to learn more about the important role of our diminishing wetlands.
The project is estimated to cost $50,000.
Equipment will arrive and grading will begin in June. Prior to that, zoo staff will be renovating the bighorn sheep exhibit to accommodate the elk and building a new exhibit for the bison and pronghorn between the grizzly bears and future wetlands.
For more information on Zoo Idaho, visit zooidaho.org.