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Archive for Wednesday, October 18, 2006

National zoo opens renovated area

October 18, 2006

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— Giant panda cub Tai Shan enjoyed his new $53 million renovated home Tuesday as the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo opened its new Asia Trail and giant panda habitat.

Seven Asian species - including sloth bears, fishing cats, red pandas, clouded leopards, a Japanese giant salamander and Asian small-clawed ottersnow - share the new space.

Many of the exhibits on the Asia Trail were designed based on observations of animal behavior by zoo scientists, officials said. Because the giant pandas enjoy the water, their new home includes a waterfall and shallow pools, curator Lisa Stevens said. There are more rocks and trees to climb, and fog machines that help simulate the pandas' natural environment in China.

A 10-year makeover of the 117-year-old animal park will cost roughly $500 million, director John Berry said. The zoo hopes Congress will provide half the funds, with private donations covering the remainder.

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