ASHEBORO N.C. – One year after breaking ground, construction on the Asia expansion at the North Carolina Zoo is on track, but with the planned opening still years away there is still a lot of work to be done.
General construction on Asia is halfway complete with Rodgers Builders, the general contractor for the project, reporting no significant delays thus far. Work constructing the buildings and infrastructure is expected to be completed by fall of 2024.
Once Asia’s construction is complete, the work of turning ten acres of gravel, dirt, and concrete buildings into a new continent is where the Zoo’s work will really start, says Diane Villa, Director of Communications & Marketing for the North Carolina Zoo.
Equipment necessary to operate a zoo, including computer systems, cameras, alarms, animal enclosures, and all the necessary infrastructure, will need to be installed and zoo staff will also need to theme the region to resemble Asia with plants, exhibits, signs, and educational & interactive elements.
Part of the theming will include art purchased specifically for Asia through funds raised by the NC Zoo Society’s Capital Campaign which has raised $500,000 of its goal of $1 million dollars, for art.
To date the NC Zoo Society’s Capital Campaign has raised $29.5 million dollars from 2,700 donations, according to Alive magazine, a publication by the NC Zoo Society to its members.
Those funds include a recent $2 million dollar donation from the SECU Foundation to go towards the Pavilion and Classroom which will feature interactive learning and a glass observation wall overlooking an indoor primate habitat.
As of September of 2023, the North Carolina Zoo has confirmed Asia will feature tigers, Komodo dragons, white-cheeked gibbons, giant salamanders, king cobras, tigers, Chinese alligators, wrinkled hornbills, red-crowned cranes, Asian small-clawed otters, cinereous vultures, Visayan warty pigs, and Chinese giant salamanders.
Those animals will come from other accredited Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions. Many of the animals are recommended for placement by the SSP (Species Survival Plans).
The Zoo says they are actively working on those placements now. Since the Zoo Society will provide the funds for any costs associated with transferring the animal to the zoo.
“The animal buildings will have to be set up with new “furniture” for all the animals. In addition, the animals need to arrive and acclimate to their new home and keepers, which takes several months. All these internal tasks add to the timeline for completion.”
While not causing any delays currently, the Zoo is waiting on this year’s state budget, which will hopefully include the state-funded staffing positions for Asia. “The North Carolina Zoo requested 100 positions for the opening of Asia. We are hopeful that the upcoming state budget will include most or all of the requested positions”, says Villa.
Asia is expected to open sometime around the summer or fall of 2026.