AKRON -- The Akron Zoo has set a new all-time annual attendance record by surpassing the previous record with a full month leftto spare.

Through the end of November, the zoo says 329,060 people have come through their gates in 2012. That number tops the previous record of 328,953 set in 2008.

"We are very proud that we have been able to provide a place of enjoyment and education for so many people of our community," said zoo President and CEO L. Patricia Simmons. "We have been listening and working hard to provide the kind of zoo our community wants to see and it is so rewarding to see the community responding to the efforts of our staff and volunteers."

Zoo officials say many factors contributed to the attendance jump, but attribute most of the success to the new Journey to the Reef exhibit, which debuted in May.

The Akron Zoo anticipates reaching at least 330,000 total guests by the end of the year.

In addition to the opening of Journey to the Reef, the zoo also welcomed, for the first time in their history, two endangered snow leopard cubs. They wereborn in May and have been on exhibit since mid-August.

Also born this year at the zoo were two endangered Humboldt penguins.

Meanwhile, construction is well underway for the zoo's next project, The Mike & Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge, which will open in the summer of 2013. Grizzly Ridge will include grizzly bears, red wolves, coyotes, otters, eagles, an aviary and more.