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Oakland Zoo's New Aerial Gondola System Takes Shape

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- The Oakland Zoo is doubling its size with a huge $80 million expansion project that will include an impressive gondola system.

The addition of the new California Trail exhibit will grow the zoo's size to 100 total acres when the project is finished. The new exhibit is happening on the tall ridge above the main zoo and the only way to access the exhibit will be the new gondola.

The zoo says this is the largest urban gondola system in Northern California. 16 cars holding eight people each will rise above the Oakland hills with views of the entire Bay Area.

The gondola cars float over large areas of modern exhibits, finally coming to a stop at the new visitor center.

The exhibit will feature many new animals, all currently or historically from California.

"Black bears, mountain lions, jaguar. Most people didn't know that jaguar are California native," said CEO Oakland Zoo Dr. Joel Parrott. "Up to 1857, the jaguar was in California."

The money for this giant expansion is coming from donations and grants from the private sector. The rest is coming from the general public.

The Oakland Zoo will soon give the San Diego Zoo a run for the money as the top zoo in the state.

"The San Diego Zoo doesn't have a view of the Bay," said Parrott with a laugh. "So, I feel a little bad for them for that but not too bad.

The new gondola is scheduled to be finished this summer.

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