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Building a better zoo 

click to enlarge Snow leopards at the Seneca Park Zoo. - PHOTO COURTESY KELLI O'BRIEN / SENECA PARK ZOO
  • PHOTO COURTESY Kelli O'Brien / Seneca Park Zoo
  • Snow leopards at the Seneca Park Zoo.

The Monroe County Parks Department is developing a new master plan -- a guide for development and growth -- for the Seneca Park Zoo. And this time, there will be no attempt to encroach into Seneca Park.

"We don't need that headache," says county parks director Larry Staub. "We don't want it."

The county's 2001 plan initially called for the zoo to expand into the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed portion of the park. But public outcry made the county change its mind.

The emphasis this time will be on replacing the zoo's main building, which houses endangered snow leopards, Bornean orangutans, and other animals, Staub says.

The structure was built in the 1930's, Staub says, and its enclosures are outdated and inconsistent with modern zoo practices. Modern exhibits resemble animals' habitats, Staub says.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums told zoo officials that the building needs to be gone by 2018 or the facility's accreditation would be in jeopardy. The zoo has to apply for accreditation every five years.

An accredited zoo can acquire and exhibit endangered animals that are part of the association's Species Survival Plans. The zoos do breeding, public education, and field conservation work. Seneca Park Zoo's polar bears and Bornean orangutans are on exhibit through the Species Survival Plan program.

The Monroe County Parks Department will hold a public input session on its zoo master plan from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 19, at the Roger Robach Community Center, 180 Beach Avenue.

Staub says that officials want to hear which exhibits and animals would bring people to the zoo. They're also looking for ideas on what should replace the main building.

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