A Florida man says he's building a replica of Noah's Ark in Miami-Dade County that will become a museum and petting zoo to raise environmental awareness.

Rodolfo Almira said he was inspired to build the ark after seeing animals struggle to find food and shelter following Hurricane Katrina, The Miami Herald reported Saturday.

Almira, with the help of three friends, is building the vessel, dubbed "Hidden Ark," based on the instructions God gave to Noah in the Bible. Construction of the ark began about six months ago on a 5-acre lot. He said he has received $300,000 in donations to start the project, which he estimated would cost about $1.5 million to complete, with donors telling him "to follow my dream."

Once complete, the ark will be about 500 feet long and three stories tall. It will house a museum, a shop and a small zoo with goats, pigs, chickens and other small animals, Almira said

He said the ark will be non-denominational.

"It has nothing to do with any specific religion," he said.

The project has had some legal difficulties. Almira said he and his partners have appealed three $500 citations for not having proper permits and zoning approval -- but they'll pay the fines if necessary.

The partners are optimistic about their ark, which they hope to finish in two years.

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"This isn't just for the community," Almira said. "It's for the entire world."