By the spring of 2010, visitors to Micke Grove Zoo will be able to see some new animals, including snow leopards and small-clawed Asian river otters.
Zoo and other officials from San Joaquin County joined volunteers at a groundbreaking, where Claude Brown, president of the Micke Grove Zoological Society, outlined a construction schedule for the easte end of the zoo as he stood next to a pile of dirt and in front of tractors.
Underground utilities will be completed by about Nov. 21; a building to house a kitchen and support services for the animals is due to begin Nov. 17 and be completed in March. An aviary was demolished at the same location in September.
A steel-arched leopard cage will be constructed next, followed by a walkway around the perimeter of the river otter exhibit, Brown said. People will be able to see the river otters from under water, he added.
Snow leopards range over an extensive area, from the mountains of Tibet and Himalayas and westward through India and Pakistan into Afghanistan, according to the zoo's Web site. The leopards also inhabit the Pamir, Tien Shan and Altai ranges, plus the Sayan mountains near Lake Baikal in Russia.
The county chipped in $270,000 for water, electricity and sewer, zoo director Ken Nieland said.
Twenty-four individuals and businesses also contributed about $90,000 worth of materials, labor and monetary donations, Brown said.
"It's vital for the zoo's master plan," San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel said at the dedication. "This park is a jewel for the county, and the zoo is a jewel within a jewel."
The zoological society will continue to seek donations to complete the project and several other new features over the next 20 years.
Anyone who wants to make a donation may call the zoological society office at 339-1096.