UTICA, NY-- The Utica Zoo celebrated the opening of a new exhibit, that's been three years in the making.
Representatives from zoo cut the ceremonial ribbon, for the White-Handed Gibbon Outdoor Living Rainforest exhibit on Thursday, along with members of the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce and city leaders .
The new exhibit is eight times bigger than the previous exhibit, free of metal bars, has a heated rock platform, a glass visitor viewing area and provides a more modern living space for the apes to climb and swing in.
The $913,000 exhibit played a significant part in the zoo's recent accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The zoo started the fundraising campaign, "We Don't Like it Either," in 2015 to improve this exhibit and several others with more modern zoological practices.
Andria Heath, executive director of the zoo, said this will continue to bring in more guests and boost local tourism.
"This is going to be so great for them to have this kind of room and for visitors and our community," she said. "It's the first thing you're seeing now when you walk into the Utica Zoo, the height and you'll hear the sounds. I think it really gives us the lift of credibility and the direction for people to know that the Utica zoo has a lot of potential and now we can meet it."
Heath said the amount of visitors has more than doubled in the past seven years, with roughly 45,000 in 2010 and 104,000 in 2017.
There could also be a new baby gibbon in the near future, the two gibbons in the exhibit, Snowflake and Yoda are now allowed to mate.
The next project for the zoo is to renovate the spider monkey exhibit.
For more information or to donate visit: uticazoo.org