A new exhibit allowing visitors to touch ocean rays and sharks is tentatively scheduled to open May 18, Kansas City Zoo officials said Wednesday.
Also, a playground for children with disabilities and special needs will open May 4 at the zoo.
A dozen small bamboo sharks were delivered to the zoo on Wednesday, and some Atlantic cownosed rays were to arrive Thursday, Tom Waggoner of the zoo's building committee told members of the Friends of the Zoo.
The $3.5 million Stingray Bay is the zoo's major animal addition this year, and officials hope it will be a popular attraction after a spring marked by cool weather and lower than projected attendance.
The 25,000-gallon saltwater touch tank is located between the penguin building and the Discovery Barn.
The open-air exhibit will be included in zoo admission, which Director Randy Wisthoff said is uncommon among animal parks that have touch tanks.
Approximately a third of the square footage and about 40 percent of the cost of the new exhibit are for behind-the-scenes water purification equipment. That is designed to avoid water quality problems that killed several rays during a temporary touch tank at the zoo in 2002.
Another addition to the zoo population, a female polar bear named Bam Bam, also arrived this week from the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Wisthoff said. She is temporarily in quarantine off public view and will then be introduced to the zoo's resident female bear, Berlin. Wisthoff said the Omaha zoo is discontinuing its polar bear exhibit.
And earlier this month the zoo received a breeding pair of black rhinoceroses from the Oregon Zoo in Portland, which is expanding its rhino habitat but could not keep the pair during construction. They will be out of quarantine in two or three weeks, and officials hope to display them together.
Wisthoff said the zoo's two recently born river otters should be out on display in about a month.