WELD COUNTY, Colo. — Denver Zoo is opening a new 570-acre facility in Weld County to grow its conservation efforts, the zoo announced in a news release Thursday. But it will not be open to the public.
"What it gives us is a lot of flexibility up at that site, so we don't have to be locked into one thing or another. We can build it out and really look at where we can have the most impact," said Brian Aucone, Denver Zoo's chief conservation officer.
The current Denver Zoo is 84 acres, making the new site more than six times the size of its urban location.
"For more than 128 years, the Denver Zoo has existed as an urban campus with a finite geographic footprint, historically limiting the space it has available to make a significant impact for wildlife," the news release said.
Construction has begun on infrastructure and facilities for The Lembke Family Preserve, according to the Denver Zoo.
The first phase of creating The Lembke Family Preserve will expand the zoo's current breeding efforts and create more space for growing animal families, the Denver Zoo said.
The facility will also create more space for animals to temporarily be relocated - as the main Denver Zoo campus does animal habitat maintenance and renovations, according to the news release.
The Denver Zoo is currently home to almost 3,000 animals from more than 450 species.
Aucone said the first animals should be moved to the preserve by the end of 2024.
"We are dedicated to saving wildlife and engaging with communities to do so," said Aucone.
In the second phase of the project, the facility will focus on reintroducing species into the wild that are threatened or endangered in Colorado and beyond.
The Lembke family — whom the new facility is named for — is just one of many donors making the development of this new facility possible. It's all part of a $75 million fundraising campaign.
“We are deeply grateful to the Lembke family for their generosity and mutual understanding that saving wildlife for future generations requires a dedicated community of donors, members, partners and neighbors,” Denver Zoo President and CEO Bert Vescolani said.