Mill Mountain Zoo in Roanoke Looking to Expand

Roanoke, VA - Some big changes may be coming to Mill Mountain Zoo, which is looking toward a major expansion in the coming years.

It is all part of a long term plan the current administration is adopting as they work to figure out new ways to ensure the zoo's survival.

Whether the Mill Mountain Zoo is open or closed the daily cost to keep this attraction in business is nearly $2,500.

That makes fund raising the single most important duty for Executive Director Ray Correia.

"The real issue here is trying to find ways of increasing streams of income because you can't just rely on philanthropy. So it is really incumbent on us to work on that and we have," said Correia.

To be successful, Correia is thinking outside the box.

He recently introduced free educational videos that are sponsored by private businesses. He is also planning a new summer music series and the beginnings of a $3 million "Campaign for Sustainability" that would eventually lead to the addition of more than five acres of exhibits to the seven acres already developed.

"And that's how you generate interest... is with exhibits. So if we are successful in doing that than I think we will really be moving along," said Correia.

Curator Robin Lentz already has her eye on what she would like to bring to the zoo after expansion. Animals that will hopefully keep people coming back including a possible bear exhibit, more primates and most importantly another tiger.

"Ruby had such a story attached to her as well and I don't know if that component would be along with another tiger but tigers are just charismatic animals and people love them," said Lentz.

The zoo was recently awarded a $50,000 grant that needs to see $50,000 in donations to be fully realized.

That money would give administrators the time needed to launch the multi-million dollar "Campaign For Sustainability" later in the year.