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Making the habitats homey

June 21, 2005

In the decade since the Los Angeles Zoo came close to losing its accreditation, $37.5 million has gone into building an animal health center and exhibits that more closely resemble natural environments. Here are some of the steps taken to make the zoo friendlier for animals and for human visitors:

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Sea Lion Cliffs exhibit

This Thursday, the zoo will celebrate its new entranceway complex and open the saltwater sea lion habitat to the public. Until recently, the zoo's five sea lions lived in two freshwater exhibits and took salt supplements for their eyes and skin.

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10 years of problems and progress

1995: U.S. Department of Agriculture cites zoo for violations related to inadequate veterinary care, animal housing, drainage and trash disposal and for problems protecting animals and humans from one another.

1996: American Zoo and Aquarium Assn. grants five-year re-accreditation.

1998: The Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains exhibit opens.

2000: Red Ape Rain Forest opens, resulting in better orangutan activity levels and health.

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2001: City agrees to do better, under threat of federal penalties resulting from 13 animal escapes. Adventure Island Zoo is revamped as the Winnick Family Children's Zoo. Dragons of Komodo exhibit opens.

2002: Zoo gets re-accreditation. Its horticultural program gets American Assn. of Museums accreditation. It is renamed the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. New animal health center opens.

2005: Three-year, nine-acre project moving the main entrance, replacing the sea lions' habitat and adding a Children's Discovery Center is completed.

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Animal Health and Conservation Center

The zoo improved its animal care in 2002, when it replaced a troubled 1966 veterinary clinic. The animal hospital now has roomy cages with flow-through natural air, heated and padded floors and special drainage. The hospital complex includes one of 29 quarantine sites approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for imported primates.

The sterile surgery area has had an orangutan and a 1,400-pound camel among its patients. The intensive care unit has its own oxygen and heating systems.

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How L.A. Zoo compares

Here are some statistics regarding zoos owned by cities:

*--* Total operating Developed Number Facility budget acres Attendance of species San Diego Zoo* $92,303,000 125 3,200,000 854 Detroit Zoo Park 19,472,809 125 1,051,422 311 Los Angeles Zoo 17,026,495 121 1,409,096 290 San Francisco Zoo 14,796,898 100 947,979 251 Gard* Dallas Zoo 11,575,265 95 576,379 407 Albuquerque Bio Park 11,120,000 133 957,320 500

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*The San Diego Zoo is city-owned and is operated by a zoological society. The San Francisco Zoological Gardens is city-owned and jointly operated by the city and a zoological society.

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Sources: Los Angeles Zoo, American Zoo and Aquarium Assn. Graphics reporting by Cheryl Brownstein-Santiago

Los Angeles Times

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