A News-Sentinel headline on Oct. 30, 2008, read, "Zoo expansion means snow leopards and river otters coming to Micke Grove in 2010."
Well, not exactly.
Due to the economy, there will be no snow leopards or river otters coming to Lodi in the foreseeable future.
The Micke Grove Zoological Society determined last summer that it didn't have enough money to complete the expansion and remodeling to the east side of the zoo, and planned to turn the project over to the county.
Those plans became a reality last week, when the Board of Supervisors voted to accept the project.
That doesn't mean that the county, facing a $54 million general fund budget shortfall in the 2010-11 fiscal year, has the means to fork over the $3 million needed to complete the project, according to county Parks and Recreation Director Craig Ogata.
Zoological society officials had hoped the zoo expansion would help restore Micke Grove's accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. By losing its accreditation in 2006, Micke Grove has greater difficulty in acquiring animals because many zoos will only exchange animals with other accredited zoos, said zoo director Ken Nieland. It can also affect Micke Grove's ability to acquire grant funds, Nieland said.
Some work has already been completed, Ogata said. The zoological society spent about $2 million, demolished an aviary and constructed a new veterinary clinic, he added. The project is about 40 percent complete.
Ogata said he hopes the Board of Supervisors will decide in the near future whether to fund the $3 million needed to complete the project, but the board may wait until it considers the entire budget in June.
County Administrator Manuel Lopez wants to go out and see the construction site himself before making a budget recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, Ogata said.
Snow leopards range over an extensive area, from the mountains of Tibet and the 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.