Asian Elephants Get a New Home at the Smithsonian National Zoo

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Image Credit: Mehgan Murphy, National Zoo

If you've been to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. lately, you may have noticed that they've been working on the first stage of their "Elephant Trails" project- a bold initiative to build a complex of indoor and outdoor habitats for the zoo's Asian elephants that will allow the endangered animals to thrive. Phase I, which opened to the public yesterday, includes two new outdoor yards and an elephant barn, which is LEED certified and includes 5,700 square feet of livable space, and will be the elephants' future home.Phase I also included an Elephant Trek, a unique outdoor exhibit that consists of a quarter-mile walking path for resident elephants, and the Homer and Martha Gudelsky Elephant Outpost, a courtyard that includes interactive exhibits designed to teach visitors about the importance of conservation in aiding the endangered species.

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Image Credit: Mehgan Murphy, National Zoo

Zoo Director Dennis Kelley said:

The transformation of the Zoo's home for its Asian elephants is not merely a facelift or simple upgrade of the habitat that was built in the 1930s. This massive renovation over a number of years reflects the Zoo's cutting-edge animal care, breeding, education and scientific research program designed to help elephant experts and scientists better care for elephants in zoos, while saving these endangered, beloved animals in the wild.

There is another phase of the "Elephant Trails" project to come, which will see the transformation of the zoo's old Elephant House, built in the 1930s, into an Elephant Community Center, where visitors can observe the elephants in their habitats. Due for completion in 2013, "Elephant Trials" comes with a $52 million price tag (from federal funding and private donations), and will be equipped to accommodate a multi-generational herd of 8-10 adult elephants, along with their young.

More on elephants:
Long-Term Memory Gives Elephants an Edge Against Climate Change
Thai Elephant Gets New Prosthetic Leg, Joyfully Throws Dirt
Elephants Smarter Than Your Child? They Have Better Counting Ability & Can Identify Different Languages

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