Wildlife World Zoo plans safari park

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A mother scimitar horned oryx attends a baby oryx. By Jennifer Thomas A mother scimitar horned oryx attends a baby oryx. By Jennifer Thomas

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium is expanding to give visitors another opportunity to get close to and learn about exotic animals.

On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved the zoo's expansion plans for a 55-acre walk/ride-through safari park with dozens of new species. Possible animals include cheetahs, hyenas, lions, baboons, along with various other birds and mammals.

When the zoo opened in 1984, it was just 25 acres with a collection of a few hundred animals consisting mostly of exotic birds and hoofed animal.

Today, the 64-acre site is home to more than 6,000 animals, including white tigers, penguins, giraffes, zebras, lions, kangaroos, rhinos, flamingos, primates, sharks, stingrays, otters and rare albino alligators.

Expansion plans also include a few additional ride attractions, such as a tram ride that will immerse visitors near and even into some of the animal habitats, much like the Safari Train Ride and Log Flume Ride do now.

No taxpayer dollars were spent to build the Wildlife World Zoo, aquarium and future safari park.

"As a private institution, we appreciate the support of Maricopa County and our local communities as we move forward with what will ultimately be our largest expansion to date," said founder and director Mickey Ollson.

Visitors will probably have to wait until 2013-14 to see the new safari park.

Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium is located at the intersection of State Route 303 and Northern Avenue in Litchfield Park. Visit www.wildlifeworld.com for more information.