UTICA — The Utica Zoo will use a state grant of $100,000 for renovations it needs for accreditation with the Silver Spring, Maryland–based Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The zoo needs to renovate its primate building and housing for animals that are taken off the premises for educational purposes, New York State Senator Joseph Griffo (R–Rome) said in a news release issued on Oct. 31.
Griffo secured the state funding for the Utica Zoo, his office said.
The Utica Zoo has been working toward accreditation since 2011, which will offer “better opportunities” for future funding grants, according to the release.
The accreditation will also provide the Utica Zoo with “guidance on best practices for protocols and procedures; enhance” staff recruitment and retention of employees who want to work for an accredited zoo; and allow the Utica Zoo to share in loaning animals from other zoos.
“I am pleased to have secured this funding so that the Utica Zoo can expand this important educational experience for our community and improve the Primate Building, while bringing the zoo one step closer to the esteemed accreditation it deserves,” Griffo said.
Griffo understands the “value” the Utica Zoo brings to our region, Andria Heath, executive director of the Utica Zoo, contended in the release.
“The zoo has a robust presence, recruits staff from here at home and throughout the nation, and contributes to our local economy as a tourist destination. The support that is provided to the zoo is intended to serve as a catalyst to multiply everything we have to offer, and we look forward to much continued success,” she said.
The zoo will use $50,000 for improvements on the primate building, which houses spider monkeys, white-handed gibbons, golden lion tamarins, and tegu.
The facility also currently uses the building as winter homes for several animals that are “not able to withstand the harsh” Central New York winters, including striped hyena, ring-tailed lemurs, and Chinese alligators.
The renovation work will help make the exhibits “more natural, more visually appealing and more consistent with modern zoological practices,” the Utica Zoo said, noting that the primate building is nearly 90 years old.
The Utica Zoo will use the remaining $50,000 to renovate the Sinnott wing of the facility’s Education Center, which is currently housing its education animals.
These animals are typically brought to places like local nursing homes and libraries, where people who may not be able to visit the zoo “can still familiarize themselves with wildlife,” Griffo’s office said.
The building is “barely large enough” to house the current education animals, which include several snakes and reptiles, a tarantula, a North American porcupine, and birds of prey like the barred owl and red-tailed hawk.
By improving the building, the Utica Zoo will then be able to expand its current collection to include more animals for people to meet and learn about, like an armadillo and a sloth.
The Utica Zoo contends a “wider variety” of animals available for outside visits will “encourage more groups to take advantage of the opportunity,” according to Griffo’s release.
The Utica Zoo also occasionally accepts local animals that have been “rehabilitated,” so “they can be showcased through the education program.”
By creating more housing space, the Utica Zoo won’t have to turn away these rehabilitated animals, some of which need a “more seasonal outside climate.”
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