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November 1, 1999

Busch Gardens Tampa Announces Major Zoo Enhancement

Tampa, FL -- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay today announced a major enhancement to the park's Serengeti Plain habitat and dedicated Busch Animal Outpost, a 108-acre off-site, multi-purpose animal care facility located in Dade City, Fla. Busch Animal Outpost was developed to facilitate long-term animal management, husbandry, propagation and behavioral conditioning for park animals. Financial details of the projects were not released.

Busch Gardens Tampa ZooWork commences this month on a 21-acre plot of the Serengeti Plain as it undergoes dramatic topographical and landscaping enhancements. The project will blend portions of the Plain's eastern and western habitats into its southern acreage adjacent to the Edge of Africa animal attraction, creating one seamless, 29-acre environment.

In making the announcement, Park General Manager Robin Carson affirmed Busch Gardens' commitment to offer guests dramatic, up-close animal experiences.

"When the Serengeti Plain premiered more than 30 years ago, Busch Gardens set a new standard in the way guests could experience African animals," Carson said. "When completed in the spring of 2000, rolling landscapes, elevated terrain, and seemingly barrier-free views will immerse guests even more intimately into the wonders of the African savanna."

African animals including giraffe, zebra, gazelle, bongo, eland, ostriches, crowned cranes and other African species will be seen in majestic settings from the park's Transveldt Railway train, skyride and a number of adjacent walkways.

Additions to the new environment include expansive berms, the largest of which is four acres; tiered and open landscapes covered with native and African grasses, scrub trees and shrubs; rock outcroppings and bluffs replicating natural formations; and naturalistic creek beds and mud banks. The Plain will feature nearly 700 trees including 26 species of Acacia, 7,000 shrubs such as Cape Honeysuckle and Burgandy Fringe Flower, and more than 21,000 short and tall grasses, Giant Reed and Red Fountain grasses included. A number of bamboos including Arrowleaf and Henon Timber also will cover the acreage. In total, more than 150 species of vegetation will be represented.

"The unique combination of expansive landscaping, diverse topography and numerous animals will provide unforgettable animal encounters for our guests and afford our animals incredibly naturalistic habitats," Carson said.

In addition to landscape enhancements, a new behind-the-scenes 3,600 square-foot giraffe barn is being constructed and connected to a 10,000 square-foot habitat designed for additional animal care. The park is also constructing an off-view 6,000 square-foot hoofstock habitat.

Busch Gardens announced the project during its dedication ceremony for Busch Animal Outpost, a new off-site animal care facility. As construction begins on the Serengeti Plain, a number of its animals are temporarily residing at the property.

Located on Pasco County's State Road 578 west of Dade City, the property accommodates llama, gazelle, eland, Grevy's zebra, defassa, Uganda kob, blesbok and other species from Busch Gardens habitats. The facility currently houses nearly 50 animals. It is not open for public guests or tours.

Since acquiring the property in summer 1998, the park has developed 17 distinct habitats ranging in size from one quarter-acre to one-acre. Busch Animal Outpost also features a separate 6-acre health screening habitat and a ranch house for resident zoo staff.

"This new off-site facility is an immediate and tremendous asset to our Busch Gardens zoo operations, said Glenn Young, vice president of Zoological Operations at Busch Gardens. "Our zoo staff now has increased resources and opportunities to continue their work in progressive animal programs such as propagation and behavioral conditioning in an environment designed specifically for those purposes," Young added.

Busch Animal Outpost and its animal residents are supervised 24 hours a day by zoo staff which includes a full-time resident curator assisted by park zookeepers and veterinarians. Husbandry, behavioral conditioning, propagation and other daily and long-term animal activities are conducted on property by zoo staff using the same high standards of care employed at Busch Gardens.

Habitats of varying dimensions can accommodate a range of species' sizes and environmental needs, and feature an abundance of vegetation including open and wooded environments.