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Virginia Living Museum breaks ground on facility that will allow a window into animal care

Laura Philion
Newport News leaders, including Mayor Phillip Jones, break ground on a new Virginia Living Museum facility late last week.

Read the original story on the WHRO News website.

The Virginia Living Museum has long cared for hundreds of species native to the commonwealth. And soon, visitors will be able to get up close and personal with some of them.

The museum plans to open a 5,000-square-foot Wild Care Center focused on providing animal care, and showing children what careers in biology and veterinary medicine look like.

Newport News leaders, including Mayor Phillip Jones, broke ground on the new facility late last week.

Rebecca Kleinhample, the museum's executive director, said the center will be a teaching tool.

“The vision here is a facility that is transparent,” she said.

Through windows at the new building, visitors will get to watch all aspects of care for what Kleinhample calls the museum’s “ambassador animals” — rehabilitated wild animals that help kids understand the natural world. One of those animals out and about recently was a coyote, whose enclosure is adjacent to the building site.

The museum, which was founded in 1966, currently houses 250 native species, many of which will live in the Wild Care Center when it’s complete.

The new facility will also give kids a close-up look at STEM careers.

“You're basically going to see science career professionals in action,” Kleinhample said. "You will be able to visually see every animal welfare exam, even a surgery, behind glass.”

She said the new facility will extend the museum’s original education mission.

“This new Wild Care Center takes us a step further … to showcase things that are both comparisons and contrast between human health and animal health, and the environment,” Kleinhample said.

Kleinhample said new facility could be open by June 2024.

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