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Donation opens door to lions at Oregon Zoo

African lions are a step closer to returning to the Oregon Zoo thanks to a $125,000 donation from the Jay and Diane Zidell Charitable Foundation.

Zoo Director Tony Vecchio announced the donation Friday, May 2, saying, "This gracious gift from the Jay and Diane Zidell Charitable Foundation brings us closer to realizing our dream of bringing lions back to Portland.'

The zoo had a lion exhibit until 10 years ago. It plans to open a new 50,000-square-foot Predators of the Serengeti exhibit in September 2009. In addition to lions, the new exhibit will feature cheetahs, wild dogs, red-billed hornbills, dwarf mongooses and caracals.

With the donation, the zoo has now raised $4.7 million of the $5 million necessary to build the exhibit.

"As longtime supporters of the Oregon Zoo, we are truly excited to contribute toward not only what promises to be an amazing new exhibit, but also toward the further awareness this new exhibit will provide for the endangered status of some African predators," the Zidells said. "It is our privilege to help 'bring back the roar' to Oregon, and we look forward with eager anticipation to seeing this exhibit open in 2009."

The zoo is a service of Metro, the regional government. In addition to its exhibits, the zoo is working to save endangered California condors, Washington pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Kincaid's lupine. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.