The Oklahoma City Zoo, consistently ranked as Oklahoma’s top tourist destination and one of the best zoos in the country, will have something new in 2014. Visitors will be able to watch live veterinary procedures in the zoo’s new, state-of-the-art hospital.

“You will be able to see surgery, radiology, treatment and laboratory sciences happen, as well as the commissary, as people prepare the diets for the animals at the zoo,” says Dana McCrory, executive director of the Oklahoma Zoological Society.

Visitors will be able to watch animal surgeries from a viewing area overlooking the surgery suite. McCrory says she is aware of just five other zoos in the nation that offer a similar veterinary viewing experience. “This definitely moves us closer to the cutting edge,” she says.

The new $9 million, 22,000-square-foot Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital will be located just above the bison enclosure on the southwest quadrant of the zoo campus. Groundbreaking will occur as soon as the Zoological Society has raised $4.5 million for the project. The other half will be paid by the zoo itself, from part of the approximately $12 million the zoo receives from Oklahoma City sales tax each year.

Three-fourths of the Society’s share had been raised by late August, McCrory says. The Kirkpatrick Foundation kicked off the campaign with a $1 million grant. If the remaining funds are raised in time, groundbreaking will occur in December or January 2013, with completion in Spring 2014, McCrory adds.

The new veterinary hospital will replace the one built in 1980, which McCrory says is too small and outdated to keep up with the demands of caring for the zoo’s animal population. The zoo has about 1,800 residents representing more than 500 species.

The hospital will include a ward for sick animals, quarantine area, surgery suite, treatment room, x-ray/ultrasound room, animal commissary, laboratory and a conference room.

The veterinary hospital is the first phase of the zoo’s 10-year master plan. After the hospital is completed, the next zoo project will be an interactive giraffe exhibit and construction of a restaurant/events center, McCrory says.

The Oklahoma City Zoo opened in 1904 and occupies 110 acres in north Oklahoma City. The zoo took in a record 986,622 visitors during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

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