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Madagascar on view

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The animals of Madagascar will soon be on view for the borough’s inquisitive crowd at the Bronx Zoo.

The latest exhibit to hit the famed nature conservancy, simply entitled Madagascar, is expected to provide a unique entertainment and learning experience in the zoo’s national landmark Lion House when it opens on or around Friday, June 20. 

“We have reached the fascinating phase of construction when the design vision for the exhibit that has been in everyone’s heads - in this case six years - is becoming a reality in every detail,” said Sue Chin, Wildlife Conservation Society director for planning and design, who spearheaded the project.

The Bronx Zoo first broke ground on the renovation project for the century-old Lion House in 2004 and worked to bring Madagascar to the Bronx, as well as add a community meeting/event facility to the historic building.

The building first opened in 1903 and although it closed in the 1970’s due to deterioration, it was designated a National Historic District by the New York City Landmarks Commission in 2000.

The $33+ million renovation project is expected to take visitors on a journey through the world’s fourth largest island, off Africa’s east coast, home of an array of endemic flora and fauna, such as the ring-tailed lemur, radiated tortoise, giant crocodile and a unique mammalian predator known as the fossa.

For a smooth transition of the foreign animals, zoo staff is working to incorporate native Madagascar vegetation into the space.

While many of the animal species have recently been introduced to the building’s housing facilities, the ring-tailed, red-ruffed, brown collared lemurs, fossa, and sifakas will be entered into their exhibition areas when construction is complete.  

As most structural elements are finished, artisans are working to add additional color to fabricated trees along the meandering walkway of the 20,000 square foot exhibit space.

 “The planting, murals, mud banks, graphics and other exhibit features all become real to create the Madagascar that was envisioned,” Chin continued. 

A zoo spokesperson said the Lion House will be LEED certified for its outstanding green design.  The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, provides a criterion of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. 

Work is also underway at the new Schiff Family Great Hall, which will be the meeting/event space first envisioned by Zoo officials. 

With the Lion House preserved, but changed, residents can still find the two famous lions that once guarded the building’s entrance.  The statues were restored and recently moved to the structure’s side garden.

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