The Sacramento Zoo has been nestled in one of Sacramento’s greenest spaces for more than 90 years. But while it used to house some of nature’s largest animals, the zoo has increasingly moved them to bigger zoos and has also expanded existing pens to give smaller animals more room.
The zoo has said it could use a new home since the 1980s, but now it says it might be forced to move or lose its accreditation.
A recent inspection of the facility by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums noted employees’ "enthusiasm" and "remarkable" efforts, but found that existing facilities are in need of replacement or renovation. The report also questioned the suitability of the zoo to hold tigers, gorillas, bears, hippos or other large animals.
"The space and complexity of off-exhibit holding for big cats and great apes would be questionable if the animals were required to live there exclusively in the long term," the report stated.
Lesley Kirrene with the zoo says management is looking at new locations.
"We may or may not be able to pass accreditation as we move forward,” she said, and added that standards for zoos are evolving, with more emphasis on size and complex habitat.
“We just simply can't accommodate that on our landlocked 14.7 acres," she said.
Since the city of Sacramento owns the zoo, operators are looking within city limits for a new home — at least twice as big and up to 100 acres, with 80 for animals and 20 for parking. Possible sites include the former Kings arena site in Natomas, Sutter's Landing north of Midtown, Cal Expo and possibly a second Natomas site.
During a recent visit by CapRadio, visitors to the zoo supported the idea of a new location. “It works for me. If they could expand the grounds, it seems like it would be something that would be worthwhile," said Jason Parker, who lives in Natomas.
The zoo and the nearby Fairytale Town park share limited parking now. Kirrene says expansion into any of Land Park's 166 acres is unlikely, though was once a consideration.
The zoo has been holding a series of community forums in an effort to drum up support for a move, and the idea of turning the existing site into a botanical garden.
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