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Baton Rouge Zoo notices attendance boost while facing upgrade delays

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BATON ROUGE - Supply-chain problems are slowing down the Baton Rouge Zoo’s facelift, but they aren't slowing down the zoo’s attendance.

Ava Blackwell, 9, is a Baton Rouge Zoo visitor and dreams of working with zoo animals one day.

“I got a vet book, and my mom got me new vet things,” Ava said. “I decided that I wanted to be a zoo vet.”

Ava visits every zoo she finds to prepare for her career.

“I think it’s fun that we can see all the animals,” Ava said.

She makes sure to check out everything.

“I like stopping to look at all the habitats to make sure the animals are happy, have lots of things to do, have places to hide and have shelters from the rain,” Ava said.

So, she definitely noticed the construction at the Baton Rouge Zoo. However, the upgrades are far from over.

“The project's been pushed back at least 6-8 months at a minimum, and it may be upwards of 12 months,” said BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo Deputy Director, Jim Fleshman.

Supply-chain issues, heavy rain, and delivery of specialized materials doubling are to blame.

“Different glass for the underwater viewing for the hippo is four sheets of laminated quarter-inch glass because it’s got to hold back so much pressure,” Fleshman said. “These are specialty orders, and that just causes more impact to when it can be made.”

The zoo kept its doors open during construction and has no plans to close them despite the delays.

“We have certain areas shut down for construction, but it really has not impacted our guests,” Fleshman said. “The number of exhibits that are off-exhibit are very minimal.”

The community is noticing the updates.

“Believe it or not, attendance is up,” Fleshman said. “I think people are getting excited because they are seeing change.”

One of the changes is almost ready for this herd.

“The giraffe exhibit is the furthest along,” Fleshman said.

But, Ava is most excited about the new underwater hippo habitat.

“I think that would be cool,” Ava said.

Fleshman says upgrades are about halfway done for some exhibits including the hippos, colobuses, aviaries and white-necked crows.

Work on the new entrance should be done by fall 2023.

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