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ZooTampa Reveals Stunning Multi-Year Vision for Future Transformation

ZooTampa at Lowry Park has unveiled its bold, multi-year vision for the future, which will bring new immersive wildlife experiences across multiple habitats and new realms to visitors over the next 20 years. Already recognized as Florida’s most attended cultural institution and leader in wildlife conservation, the Zoo is aiming to increase opportunities for families and friends to form lasting connections with animals, expand public education initiatives, and drive local and regional economic growth through a planned $125 million transformation.

South America Riverfront, ZooTampa, Hillsborough River, Wildlife, Entertainment, Nature

Explore the vibrant South America-themed realm at ZooTampa’s new riverfront district.

A New South America-Themed Realm

The Zoo’s South America-themed realm will include an exciting nature and entertainment zone in Lowry Park, expanding public access to the Hillsborough River. The riverfront connection emphasizes ZooTampa and the City of Tampa’s commitment to nature, wildlife, and green spaces that are essential for happier, healthier lives. This new realm will offer visitors unforgettable moments of interaction and education with rarely seen wildlife, including sea lions, giant river otters, jaguars, and more.

South America Realm, ZooTampa, Tampa, wildlife, nature, riverfront

Concept art for the South America Realm in ZooTampa’s upcoming transformation

Manatee Rescue

The David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center is the largest non-profit and one of only four critical care centers in the world. It has been at the heart of ZooTampa’s mission for more than 20 years, rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing Florida’s iconic species. The newly designed Manatee Rescue (opening January 2026) will be an innovative, multi-dimensional environment that will immerse guests in the manatee’s world, the state’s fragile marine ecosystem, from rivers to the Gulf. This newly designed area will expand the capacity of the David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center with the addition of acute care and nursery pools for the direst patients (opening Fall 2023).

Elephants, gorillas, and primates in the Africa Realm

A sneak peek at the new Africa Realm at ZooTampa, featuring expanded habitats for majestic animals such as elephants, gorillas, and primates.

Africa and Asia

The Zoo’s reimagined Africa and Asia realms will feature expanded habitats that create a new experience on every visit, reinforcing the Zoo’s commitment to the care and protection of species in peril. Ground-level areas will feature red river hogs in their natural environment, while higher climbs will bring guests side-by-side with mighty gorillas and playful primates in the treetops. The Asia realm will immerse visitors in the habitats of some of the world’s most endangered species, featuring stunning overhead paths that blur the line between guests and animals.

ZooTampa's Asia Realm", "Tiger habitat at ZooTampa", "Orangutan habitat at ZooTampa", "Overhead path in Asia realm at ZooTampa

Get a sneak peek of ZooTampa’s upcoming Asia realm! This concept art showcases the innovative design of the tiger and orangutan habitats, as well as the stunning overhead paths that will give guests a unique and immersive experience.

Exciting Additions

The new transformation plans will also feature new habitats designed to uphold the highest standards for animal care and welfare, while adding a welcoming sense of arrival for the more than 1.2 million guests who visit the Zoo each year. Visitors will also have the chance to touch and feed stingrays in the newly reimagined Stingray Shores (opening Fall 2023), and experience an up-close-and-personal encounter with these amazing animals by wading into the water.

Otters playing in a river, ZooTampa's new exhibit, nature and entertainment district

Get a sneak peek at the future otter exhibit at ZooTampa’s nature and entertainment district.

Neighborhood Engagement

ZooTampa has been engaging its neighbors and members about the project, including inviting representation from the Zoo’s nearest neighbors in focus groups and broader community surveys. Feedback has been positive, seeing the project as a vibrant rejuvenation to the historical Lowry Park Central and Seminole Heights areas, advancing economic development for small business owners, and improving neighborhood safety, traffic flow, and beautification. Further neighborhood meetings are planned, as well as opportunities for local residents to share their thoughts and stay up-to-date with developments.

Stingray, water, touch tank, marine life, interactive exhibit

Get up close and personal with stingrays at the new interactive exhibit, Stingray Shore.

A Boon for the Local Economy

ZooTampa’s transformation promises to be a boon for the local economy, bringing more jobs and tourism dollars to the community while enhancing the beauty of Tampa’s natural areas. The proposed expansion would enhance the riverfront and boost the direct economic activity of Hillsborough County by 42 percent, to $274 million, and bring in nearly $1 million in additional tax dollars for the county annually.

“As ZooTampa embarks on an even more extraordinary future, we remain committed to transforming with the resilient Tampa Bay community, creating world-class zoological experiences, providing the highest standards in animal care, and inspiring action to be responsible stewards of the natural world,” said President and CEO Joe Couceiro.

Gorilla exhibit, new gorilla habitat, ZooTampa Africa realm, wildlife conservation, animal care

The new gorilla habitat at ZooTampa’s Africa realm promises an immersive experience for guests and a safe, natural environment for the gorillas.

ZooTampa at Lowry Park is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to excellence in conservation, education, recreation, and research. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is recognized as Florida’s leading and most attended zoological cultural institution. ZooTampa is an eleven-time winner of the Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice Award (2010-2022), ranking us among the top 10% of attractions worldwide.

Mr Zoo News
The Editor-in-Chief of ZooReviews with a passion for zoos, conservation and species preservation. Mr Zoo has worked with zoos around the world to help develop enrichment programs, along with helping to build zoo volunteer organizations across South East Asia.

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