A 3-month-old zebra strolls its habitat at the World Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium last week.  The zoo will expand on 55 acres purchased in recent years.

Dave Martinez/Daily News-Sun

The Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium will continue its expansion by creating a walk-and-ride Safari Park that will include dozens of new species.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday unanimously approved a special use permit on 55 additional acres purchased over the past few years on the zoo’s southern perimeter in Litchfield Park. “I see the approval today by county supervisors for our next phase of expansion as an affirmation of nearly 27 years of hard work by hundreds of dedicated current and former team members to bring another world class zoological institution to the Valley,” said Mickey Ollson, the zoo’s founder and director.

“As a private institution, we appreciate the support of Maricopa County and our local communities as we move forward with what will ultimately be our largest expansion to date.”

Possible species for inclusion in the Wildlife World Safari park include: cheetahs, hyenas, an additional lion pride, baboons along with various other birds and mammals. As with past expansion efforts, zoo officials said, plans include a few additional ride attractions such as a tram that will immerse visitors near and even into some of the animal habitats.

The zoo features 64 developed acres with hundreds of animal exhibits, five ride attractions, three retail shops and several dining options. It displays more than 600 different species of wild animals with more than 6,000 individual specimens, including white tigers, penguins, zebras, lions and kangaroos.

“The Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium has been one of the finest attractions we have in Arizona, much less the West Valley,” Maricopa County Supervisor Max Wilson said following the vote. “It has provided family entertainment and education for a long time and, with this addition, for a long time to come. It is ideally situated in the West Valley, off Loop 303. I am pleased and proud to support this expansion. It is such a community and educational asset.”

County officials noted that no tax dollars have been used to build the zoo or aquarium.

While visitors will probably have to wait until 2013-14 to see the new safari park, they won’t have to wait long for new attractions officials said.

Late this fall, “Dragon World” is set to open featuring large monitor lizards, giant anaconda with underwater viewing, and crocodilians, including the state’s first saltwater crocodile from Australia.

A fourth aquarium building is scheduled to open this spring with about 7000 square feet of public display area featuring marine turtles and a permanent small-clawed otter habitat.Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium is located at the intersection of State Route 303 and Northern Avenue at 16501 W. Northern Ave.  The zoo grounds are open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the aquarium is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Daytime admission to both the zoo and aquarium is $27.50 for adults and $14.25 for children 3 to 12 (plus state sales tax), children under three are free. Special reduced admission (after 5 p.m.) to the Aquarium-only is $16.99 for adults and $8.99 for children 3 to 12 (plus state sales tax). 

Visit www.wildlifeworld.com for more information.

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