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Summer Splash

San Diego Zoo Habitat Sets Tropical Mood

May 20, 1999|TONY PERRY

SAN DIEGO — On the same daySea World unleashes Shipwreck Rapids, the San Diego Zoo opens Ituri Forest, a 2-acre tropical jungle that officials describe as the most complex, multi-species habitat ever developed at the world-famous zoo.

Look for that immersion concept again, although used a bit differently than at Sea World.

"We want Ituri Forest to be a sensory experience for our guests," said Art Risser, the zoo's general manager. "It's been designed to immerse our visitors into a faraway land."

The mist-shrouded forest will be home to seven species of mammals and six species of birds. Hippos will be visible swimming underwater; forest buffaloes will wallow in mud. The goal is to make the attraction look like the real Ituri Forest in the Congo.

A sound system will waft African jungle tunes, and a thatched-hut gift and snack store is close by. True to the zoo's educational objective, the exhibit will include an "interpretive area" devoted to the Mbuti, the forest's indigenous people.

Not to be undone, the zoo's younger sibling, the Wild Animal Park, is upgrading its open-air tram into the all-new Wgasa Bush Line Railway, with videos and entertainment at the train station to keep the kids from fidgeting during the wait. The railway gives you up-close views of gazelles, elephants and, if you're fast enough, a pride of lions.

BE THERE

The San Diego Zoo summer hours are 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $16 for adults, $7 for children 3 to 11. Parking is free. Strollers and wheelchairs can be rented for $5. Visitors should take California 163 through Balboa Park.

The Wild Animal Park summer hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $19.95 for adults, and $12.95 for children 3 to 11. Parking is $3. Strollers and wheelchairs can be rented for $5. The park is 30 miles north of downtown San Diego in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, off Interstate 15.

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