Updated at 3:30 p.m. with additional information — The St. Louis Zoo Association is buying a 425-acre complex in north St. Louis County to breed endangered and at-risk animals, officials announced today.
The zoo is obtaining the land from the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 for $7.1 million. The purchase is funded through donations from two undisclosed philanthropists.
The zoo’s Forest Park operations will continue. But officials said that the zoo needs more space. The purchase is part of the St. Louis Zoo’s long-term plan to conserve and care for animals facing extinction.
The property has unusual features that make it one of few parcels in the region that suit the zoo’s needs, said Jeffrey Bonner, president and chief executive officer of the St. Louis Zoo, in a statement.
“The property offers great terrain, perimeter fencing, utilities, lakes, good buffers surrounding and existing buildings,” he said.
Zoo officials said in a conference call that there's no set timeline or for the facility's development. The zoo may repurpose some existing buildings; officials said they will decide how to develop the land based on how much public support the project receives.
“We’re going to have to develop it, but once developed, we’ll be in a much better position to breed and care for a wide variety of endangered animals, and those that are at a real risk for extinction," Bonner said.
Bonner added that the zoo wants to focus its efforts on breeding cheetahs, hoofstock, amphibians, and birds. Visitors to St. Louis Zoo might see more species, with fewer specimen, at the Forest Park location.
The property at 12385 Larimore Road comprises several parcels, which contain lakes and the Emerald Greens Golf Course, near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. In June, the union announced plans to move its headquarters from Spanish Lake to Earth City, near St. Charles.
“Local 562 is honored to sell this property to an organization that brings added value to the community,” said the union’s business manager John O’Mara in a press release. “We are confident the property is being left in good hands.”
The zoo hasn’t finalized its plans for the property, but parts of the new facilities could be public. Other zoos have offered a “wildlife and safari experience” through similar projects. Bonner said the land could support canoeing, kayaking, glamping, or traditional camping.
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