Big plans for Natural Science Center

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Greensboro Science Center welcomed a new addition to their zoo today: Taiji the Red Panda.

The ten-month-old mammal looks more like a fox or raccoon, but is a vulnerable panda species threatened by poaching and habitat destruction.

GSC was the only new institution selected by the Red Panda Species Survival Plan last year to acquire a Red Panda.

Taiji arrived at the Greensboro airport Wednesday afternoon after leaving his parents at the Red River Zoo in Fargo, North Dakota.

He will be in quarantine for about a month and then put on exhibit for the public at the Greensboro Science Center. The GSC Zoo hopes to bring in a female Red Panda, too, eventually.

Taiji represents more than just a new species at the GSC; he is just one part of the rapidly growing facility.

The Sciquarium is set to open by July, and will boast new technology like iPads merged with the history and science of underwater creatures.

"The week of April 15, we have a truck with about $120,000 worth of fish arriving in Greensboro," explained Glenn Dobrogosz with GSC.

"Sharks, eagle rays, fish--the penguins and fishing cats will arrive later. The otter are already here in quarantine," he added.

In addition to a large tank with sharks and fish, another tank will be modeled after the Amazon River Basin to host anacondas and other water animals.

In the center of the Sciquarium, visitors will be able to pet sting rays.

For additional fees, visitors to the GSC will soon be able to meet and feed the new African penguins. They also have the option of buying a behind-the scenes pass to see the tanks from above and get an idea of how the handlers and divers interact with the animals.

The Sciquarium is phase one of three at the GSC. Next on the list is revamping the museum and zoo, including an outdoor above-the-zoo addition.

"It will be called Sky Wild: Survival of the Physically Fittest," explained Dobrogosz. "Basically a treetop adventure for physical fitness but also in a sciency immersion way where you're eye-to-eye with these animals."

He hopes Sky Wild will be up and ready in about a year.

Dobrogosz also described plans for an Endangered Species Village.

All in all, he said, they expect the projects to cost at least $30 million. Most of the costs will be paid for by bond money. The Board of Directors and private partners are also raising several million dollars for the upcoming expansions.