10/17/2013 02:00 EDT | Updated 12/17/2013 05:12 EST

Zoolights Still A Go As Calgary Zoo Set To Fully Reopen


CALGARY - The Calgary Zoo plans to fling its doors wide to visitors next month for the first time since the animal park was heavily damaged by flooding.

The zoo says in a release that it will completely reopen Nov. 28 with a big celebration.

In addition, the extremely popular Zoolights winter exhibit will go ahead this year, opening on Nov. 29 and running until Jan. 4, 2014.

Devastating floods that swamped much of downtown Calgary in June caused more than $50 million in building and infrastructure damage at the zoo.

The facility had to find new homes for dozens of animals, closed several buildings and laid off about 300 employees.

It managed to reopen the popular Penguin Plunge exhibit and two other displays July 31 — about one-third of the park.

Zoo CEO Clément Lanthier says he's proud of the rebuilding effort in such a short time.

“I have been anxiously anticipating the day when I could announce to our community that their Calgary Zoo is back,” Lanthier said in the release Thursday.

“From the time of the flood in June, I have witnessed a remarkable team of staff and volunteers working diligently and passionately to bring the zoo back to what it was and I believe in many ways our community will find that it’s better than ever."

The zoo is located on St. George's Island east of downtown and not far from where the Elbow and Bow rivers meet. It was hit hard when raging water rose swiftly after torrential rains in southern Alberta in June. Forty buildings, including the African Savannah exhibit, were severely damaged. Two peacocks, a pot-bellied pig and a variety of fish died.

In the following months, a zebra and several penguins have also died, although their deaths were not directly related to the flood.

One of the few bright spots for the zoo as it worked to reopen was the birth of a baby gentoo penguin July 7.

The disaster has been hard on the facility's pocketbook — $160,000 a day in lost revenue.

The Calgary Zoo is known for its conservation and captive breeding programs.