Paint is drying, workers are laying sod, and the grizzly bears, Will and Wiley, are settling into their new digs.
The Trails project opens Saturday after three years of building and $10 million worth of spending. Oklahoma Trails is the largest, most intricate addition to the zoo since it opened in 1904, spokeswoman Tara Henson said.
More than 800 animals are part of the 8-acre exhibit.
Construction hang-ups have caused delays, but zoo Director Bert Castro said the result is worth the wait.
"I think the people of Oklahoma City are going to be very, very pleased with what we've done with their tax money,” Castro said.
Bigger, better, later
The Oklahoma City Zoological Trust first approved a $6.2 million budget for a 4.3-acre exhibit in 2003. Construction was expected to take less than a year. Then came revamped designs, increased material costs and complicated construction work.
A big slowdown, Castro said, was avoiding 600 old-growth trees on the land.
"It's a very complex project,” Castro said. "This is not a flat parking lot, and we're not building a square building.”
Nose to nose
The zoo chose state "flagship species” for the exhibit. Of the 800-plus animals, about 100 are new to the zoo, including flying squirrels, coyotes, elk and badgers.
Every animal is or was native to Oklahoma, except for the Mexican fruit bats. Zoo staff chose the fruit bats — which look like the native insect-eating Mexican free-tail bats — because they are easier to care for.
Some of the animals, such as the grizzly bears and wolves, once lived in Oklahoma but were driven out by human settlement. The bears were killed off nearly to extinction, Castro said.
The distance between human and animal is slim in the Trails.