San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrates 40th anniversary - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrates 40th anniversary

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrated its 40th anniversary Friday by announcing a $9 million donation to fund a new tiger exhibit.

The money came from an anonymous benefactor who challenged San Diego Zoo Global to raise the remaining $2 million necessary to build Tiger Trail. The exhibit is estimated to cost $19 million total -- the other $8 million has already been accumulated.

The Tiger Trail will be a forested area with three distinctive tiger habitats for the park's Sumatran tigers.

The habitats will have rocks for climbing, ponds for swimming, deadwood trees to use as scratching posts and long grasses for catnapping, according to the zoo. There will also be numerous viewing areas for guests to see the cats up close.

Zoo officials said fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers are left in the wild. The Safari Park is home to seven of the breed, but 23 have been born there.

Joan Embery, the longtime conservation ambassador for San Diego Zoo Global, kicked off the ceremony, which coincided with National Endangered Species Day. In addition to the ceremony, park officials plan to host a weekend of activities that will highlight endangered species.

Embery took part in the park's opening ceremony 40 years ago. For most of the past four decades, the attraction -- which sits in the San Pasqual Valley, near the southeastern edge of Escondido -- was known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The name was changed in 2010.

The park opened in 1972 and offered the public a new type of zoo where animals lived in large, open spaces. The sprawling 1,800-acre park has contributed to the preservation of critically endangered species like the rhinoceros, Arabian oryx, African elephant, California condor and the cheetah, according to park officials.

An estimated 2 million people visit the park annually and it employs anywhere from about 400 to 600 people, depending on the season.

The anniversary celebration will also showcase the U.S. Postal Service's fourth tiger stamp, which benefits wildlife conservation. The Save Vanishing Species stamp will be sold at the park, with proceeds benefiting the "Wildlife Without Borders" Multinational Species Conservation Fund, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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