The Oakland Zoo sits on 45 acres in the East Bay hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The City Council has now approved a plan to more than double its size, to 100 acres.
"It will allow us to have really two parts to the zoo; one is the zoo as you know it, but the other is really more of a wild animal park," Oakland Zoo Executive Director Joel Parrott said.
The expansion will take place on the open space above the current zoo. The focus will be on native animals and plants in an area that will be called the California Trail.
"So we want to show that the grizzly bear is actually a California native, the wolf is a California native, the jaguar is a California native, but most people don't realize," Parrott said.
Animals, like the grizzly bear, used to call this space home, but were pushed out by humans.
"Because of the proximity to the bay, the marine animals that washed up, the Sacramento River coming down, then oak woodlands being here, it was one of the prime areas for the grizzly bear in the state of California," Parrott said.
The new animal exhibits will only take up 20 acres of the new space. Thirty additional acres will be dedicated to natural habitats for both plants and animals and teaching visitors about preservation.
"As you look over San Francisco Bay, you can see all the development that has occurred, to show the impact of humans has been, as you look east, you get to see where there is no development at all," Parrott said.
Visitors will get up the hill in an all-electric gondola that will replace the current chair lift and be able to camp out overnight among the animal exhibits.
The $72 million project will begin in July with the groundbreaking for a new veterinary hospital. The grand opening for the expanded Oakland Zoo is expected in 2015.
Written and produced by Juan Carlos Guerrero