ASHEBORO, NC - What's new at the zoo is a blast from the past--the prehistoric past.

Dinosaurs, the so-called "terrible lizards" that dominated the earth millions of years before humans arrived on the scene, are the subject of a brand new exhibit opening March 31 at the North Carolina Zoo.

Fifteen life-sized, animatronic creatures representing more than a dozen dinosaur species will inhabit a deep forest exhibit created just for this first-time attraction at the State Zoo. A winding pathway lined with ancient plants near the zoo's African Pavilion will transport visitors back in time to come face-to-face with the ferocious flesh-eating Tyrannosaurus Rex, the gigantic herbivorous Brachiosaurus and many other denizens of pre-historic earth.

These roaring, snarling replicas of a bygone era have been created by Billings Productions, a Texas company specializing in state-of-the-art dinosaur exhibits for zoos, theme parks and other tourist attractions around the country. Their creations utilize hydraulic motion systems that make the dinosaurs more life-like while at the same time lowering maintenance and increasing durability for outdoor presentations.

Each dinosaur is built on a steel frame and meticulously covered with textured, intricately painted rubber skin. Bold colors and theatrical touches along with state-of-the-art electronics make them seem real, with movements that include grasping hands, menacing claws and gnashing teeth.One of the dinosaurs can even be operated by visitors using a remote control box.

In addition to the animatronic creatures, zoo visitors will also be able to view educational videos on dinosaurs and participate in archeological digs that help them understand how scientists discovered and documented their existence. "Dinosaurs" also carries an important message about the need to conserve modern animal species threatened by extinction. In association with the new exhibit, the zoo's SimEx-Iwerks theater will present the film "Dino Island 4-D." Time Warner Cable is the primary sponsor for "Dinosaurs" which will remain at the zoo through October. Additional support is also being provided by the Randolph County Tourism Authority and Coke.

Tickets for the N.C. Zoo's "Dinosaurs" will be $4 in addition to regular zoo admission, although combo tickets will also be available that reduce the cost. For more information, call 1-800-488-044 or visit the zoo's website at

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly E. Perdue, Governor.