- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

ASHEBORO, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina Zoo says it needs $60 million in improvements in the next decade.

Zoo officials said Wednesday that some of the facilities at the Asheboro zoo are outdated or deteriorating.

Park leaders hope the state would borrow $40 million for the effort.

Zoo director Dr. David Jones says the money would be used to fix maintenance problems and add new attractions to keep the zoo competitive.

“We have begun to fall behind,” Jones said, while pointing out the state has invested recently in its aquariums, natural science museum and some other parks.

Improvements would help ticket sales. But zoo officials say since many animals are now moved from zoo to zoo, the North Carolina Zoo must make improvements to be eligible to receive new animals.

Drew Elliot, spokesman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said any discussion of borrowing for the improvements is premature.

The state borrowed $2 million to begin the zoo in 1972.

Borrowing $40 million, coupled with $20 million in private funds to be raised by the Zoo Society, would allow the park to begin work on a 10-year plan to upgrade existing facilities and add new features, Jones said.

About half of the money would be used to replace the zoo’s largest single building, the African Pavilion, which opened in 1984. Considered outdated by current zoo standards, the building would be replaced by two or three smaller ones.

The new buildings might be used to create a small-scale area where visitors could see species such as Asian red pandas, snow leopards, Malayan tigers, white-handed Gibbons, binturongs, koalas, kangaroos and laughing kookaburras.

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