MONROE — The residents at Horn T Zoo have settled into their new digs.
A heated enclosure housing animals sensitive to the cold weather recently opened. The 60-by-80-foot space was constructed over the summer and moved into in early November.
The facility is the latest addition to the zoo that has been in operation for seven years.
Owner Todd Laudenklos said he wanted the enclosure to give his animals a permanent place to call home.
“We needed something for winter instead of using reefer (refrigerated) trailers and sending (the animals) out of state,” he said.
Previously, species such as monkeys and alligators were transported to warmer states during the winter, an expense Laudenklos will no longer have to take on.
The addition also allows the zoo to stay open longer than the typical June-October season. The enclosure was open to the public last weekend and is open again this weekend. Hours are 5-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Along with seeing the animals, guests can visit Santa and have free hot chocolate and cookies.
About 30 animals occupy the new space, including various species of monkeys, porcupines, otters, alligators, rabbits and hedgehogs.
“We needed this. It is a lot easier on the animals. They all like it,” Laudenklos said.
On Friday, an albino prairie dog was making himself at home by slouching on his backside propped up against his cage. Nearby, a group of ringed-tailed lemurs were huddled together before dashing off to climb and play. In the corner, a new member of the zoo, a 5-month-old kangaroo, was peeking out from its mother’s pouch.
The enclosure, which has a 20-by-30-foot kitchen where the animals’ food is stored and prepared, features concrete floors and cages made in Nashville, Tennessee.
Pens on the south side of the building have outdoor access, allowing animals to come and go as they please during the warmer months. The other pens on the north side will be empty or used for quarantines in the spring and summer as animals currently living there will be moved to outside areas.
Laudenklos said the weather will determine what days the zoo is open this winter.