Multi-million dollar 14.5 acre Asian exhibit opens at Oklahoma City Zoo

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Sanctuary Asia exhibit opened on Friday. It's 14 and a half acres and a space that took 20 months of construction to build.

"It just blows you away. It is a Disney World-quality exhibit right here in Oklahoma City,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt.

Sanctuary Asia officially opened to visitors Friday. Inside the exhibit, there's both new and popular animals.

Francois langur monkeys, the cassowary bird and Burmese Black Mountain tortoises join the Komodo dragons, red pandas, Indian Rhinos and Asian elephants inside the Asian-themed exhibit. Several tanuki will also be added to the exhibit.

There's a large eatery and event space inside the Lotus Pavilion.

"If you've been coming to the zoo for a while, our current restaurant, when attendance was about half of what it is the last couple of years, so we were due for a new food facility,” said Dwight Lawson, executive director and CEO of the Oklahoma City Zoo.

In fact, about a million visitors will go to the Oklahoma City Zoo any given year. Some helped pay for the new $22 million expansion with an eighth of a cent sales tax approved by voters 30 years ago.

"These investments in the zoo keep the zoo at the highest levels,” Holt said.

"I really commend the voters of Oklahoma City for what they did 30 years ago. They set the course for what we're enjoying today."

Enjoying wildlife's most rare while also teaching children about the wild animals in danger of extinction.

"I worry personally that they're getting disconnected from nature and the world around us at the time it's most critical as animals are being increasingly threatened by habitat loss, by poaching, illegal wildlife trade, things like that,” Lawson said.

“We want people to come here, have a connection with wildlife and transfer that over into helping save the planet,” said Nick Newby, assistant curator of large animals.

Another exciting part of the Sanctuary Asia exhibit will be a baby elephant calf due around October.

For more information about the Sanctuary Asia exhibit, click here.

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