Brevard Zoo’s latest expansion set to open this month
"Rainforest Revealed," Brevard Zoo’s $4.4 million expansion project, is expected to open Nov. 16.
Viera Voice photo
Visitors will get a special treat when the Brevard Zoo’s newest exhibits open Nov. 16.
The exhibits are part of the Brevard Zoo’s $4.4 million “Rainforest Revealed” expansion. Officials say it’s the biggest expansion in the zoo’s 25-year history.
Workers and volunteers are recreating the South American rain forest in the Space Coast zoo. Officials said Florida has the perfect climate for the recreation, which will include animals that haven't been featured at the zoo.
"Because of our climate, we can do something no one else can really do, and that is we can have a living breathing rain forest here," Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten said.
According to information from the zoo’s website, large otters that can grow up to 6 feet long will be featured and for the first time, the zoo will feature venomous snakes inside a venomous reptile building.
The zoo also will feature "River Monsters," which include large fish, as heavy as 400 pounds, caimans and freshwater stingrays.
The expansion also includes three new housing areas for the spider monkeys that have overhead connecting tunnels called sky trails, which allow the monkeys to move back and forth and hang in different social groups, just like they do in the wild.
“Spider monkeys are really social primates. They're the only monkey we know that lives in social groups, much like people,” Winsten said. “It’s called fission fusion: They get together for bigger groups and then break apart like we do for Thanksgiving.”
Zoo officials said they have been working on the project for four years.
Winding through a lush tropical landscape almost indistinguishable from a true jungle, La Selva has remained a must-see for visitors since the zoo opened in 1994. Its majestic jaguars, playful monkeys and chattering parrots represent the splendid diversity of life found within the rainforests of Latin America — and inspire zoo visitors to protect this critical ecosystem.
“After 25 years of faithful service, it’s time to give this treasured section of the zoo the makeover it deserves,” the website reported.
Using the latest science, conducted both at animal care facilities and in the wild, zoo officials believe “Rainforest Revealed” will forever transform the zoo as you know it.
Much of this particular design was done by the zoo’s research partnership with Dr. Darby Proctor and the Florida Institute of Technology. This expanded habitat features a cognition center where Dr. Proctor and her students demonstrated the voluntary behavioral research they conduct at the zoo.
The smallest animal of “Rainforest Revealed” might have the biggest impact on visitors. The red siskin is an endangered, strikingly plumaged finch native to Colombia and Venezuela currently displayed at no other zoo in the country — a fact zoo officials hope will change if its breeding efforts are successful.
Visitors can learn about the threats facing the red siskin and how the choices you make at the grocery store could save their lives.
The climax of “Rainforest Revealed” is the “Flooded Forest.” This massive complex highlights the importance of water to Latin American ecosystems and draws parallels from the Amazon River to the Indian River Lagoon.
The Amazon River is renowned for its extreme variety of fish, and new species are discovered there every year. Visitors will marvel at the mighty arapaima (capable of exceeding 400 pounds in weight), freshwater stingrays and dwarf caimans (small relatives of the crocodiles) in a 5,300-gallon tank complete with 26 horizontal feet of underwater viewing.
Across the way, visitors can peer into a 4,000-square-foot, 20-foot-tall aviary-like structure housing free-flying macaws, roseate spoonbills, Orinoco geese and other colorful rainforest birds. Some of the monkeys will have access to this space via sky trail, and ground-level passages will connect to brand-new, open-air habitats for tapirs, capybaras and giant anteaters.
“Every time you come to the exhibit, it will look different because you won’t know who is going to be where and where they will spend their time,” Winsten said.
For more information about the zoo, go to brevardzoo.org