The planned location for the new exhibit on a two-acre plot of land within the OC Zoo.  Credit: Orange County staff report

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A $7.4 million exhibit featuring large mammals is coming to the Orange County Zoo as part of an expansion plan started in 2013.

The exhibit will feature rock walls, four display spaces, and a waterfall, as well as secure fencing to protect animals and visitors. Mountain lions and jaguars are expected to inhabit this exhibit, which will be designed to represent the flora and fauna of Orange County. The new exhibit is the latest installment of a general development plan for the zoo that includes other improvements such as drainage systems and restrooms.

The zoo contains mostly rehabilitated animals who cannot be released back into the wild and receives approximately 280,000 visitors each calendar year, according to a county staff report.

Orange County Supervisors unanimously approved San Carlos-based general contracting firm Rudolph & Sletten to build the two-acre exhibit in currently unused space within the zoo during an October meeting. Funding for the project will be spent in two installments: $3 million during the 2019-20 fiscal year for pre-construction costs and initial construction, and the remaining $4.4 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year for additional construction costs.

The zoo is open daily year-round and features a number of native reptiles, mammals, and bird exhibits. While the new large mammal exhibit does not currently have a set opening date, construction is expected to continue through 2021.

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