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Nashville Zoo plans more animal exhibits

NASHVILLE - The Nashville Zoo says its plans for expansion include a major increase in the number of animals exhibited and in the amount of developed land.

The zoo is planning on new exhibits featuring lions, gorillas, penguins and Andean bears, among others. Details of the $160 million expansion were released last week and include more than doubling the number of animals. Officials say they hope to complete the project by 2020.

Zoo President Rick Schwartz told The Tennessean that the expansion is expected to boost attendance to 1.2 million visitors, an increase of more than 50 percent.

Along with the announcement, zoo officials also launched an effort to raise private funds for the project. So far, the zoo has raised $28 million in commitments, including $15 million from the city.

"The potential here is unbelievable," said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who endorsed the plans.

When the additional land is developed, the zoo will be one of the largest in the nation, and Schwartz said he hopes it will draw visitors from afar.

"Our goal really is to make this a world-class zoo," he said. "A world-class zoo for a world-class city."

Zoo spokesman Jim Bartoo says the first new exhibits will include Andean bears and spider monkeys, and that is planned for completion toward the end of next year.

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