LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Exciting news for Angelina County residents and beyond as City Council approved Zoo Director Gordon Henley's request to begin a six million dollar project to introduce a state of the art exhibit and three new gorillas to Ellen Trout Zoo.
"Gordon Henley sure knows how to draw a crowd," began Mayor Bob Brown at Tuesday's City Council meeting that was standing room only in support of Henley's proposition plan that brought his conceptual gorilla exhibit to life.
"This exhibit would be located between the education center and the hippo exhibit, there is about an acre of land in there to develop for that, said Henley. "We intend to leave all the trees we can, and we want it to be visitor immersing so that you're not going to some cage. It's going to feel like you are in Africa walking through the forest experiencing it as realistically as possible."
Henley said he and his wife just returned from Africa where he took photos of their natural surroundings and wants to bring these images to life when constructing the new exhibit.
"We haven't asked for another animal addition since approximately 2001, so we think it is time to begin our next project in welcoming another species, and what better way than this," Henley said.
Henley demonstrated to the city council members and public what the exhibit would look like through a video of construction and what exactly things would look like at Ellen Trout Zoo once completed.
"We will have behind that, a barrier that people cannot penetrate without willfully climbing over, but glass will surround all sides," Henley said. "Although, gorillas will come up within two inches to the glass, and if you have ever been to a gorilla exhibit they really will come right up to it and will interact with the public which is great."
He hopes this will not only be a source of entertainment for zoo goers, but also a way to learn more about the animals found in Ellen Trout Zoo.
"It's a way for people to not only see the gorillas but see the way they interact, and appreciate their well being and understand why it is so important to leave as many as we can in the public," Henley said.
More special additions will be explained later in the fundraising process, but Henley explained some of the things we can expect to see.
"This is a cover exhibit that will have a general viewing area as well as a private VIP exclusive area only seen from a certain vantage point."
Henley said they will return back to the drawing board for what the next phase in the fundraising process will be, but for now he said he will enjoy the feeling of support and love from the many community members that gathered to show their appreciation for his work in the planning process.
"This is just wonderful. Lufkin is a wonderful place. The community is great. The city council is great that's what makes everything come together," Henley said.