The wait is over. The girls have returned. The Zoo is ready to share its new Elephant Habitat with you. On Friday, March 11 the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden celebrated the grand opening of its state-of-the-art elephant habitat. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and just in time for spring break, the highly-anticipated new habitat is home to the Zoo’s two Asian elephants Asha and Chandra, and future elephants including Asha’s first calf due this spring.
As guests explore the new $13 million dollar Asian-themed exhibit, they will journey along a beautiful pine boardwalk giving them a picturesque view of the massive habitat. Located in the southeast corner of the Zoo behind Great EscApe, the new habitat spans 9.5 acres making it one of the largest Asian elephant zoo exhibits in the country. In addition to sheer magnitude, exhibit elements including a technologically-advanced elephant barn, three yards each with pools and shade structures, and a presentation pavilion that seats 400+ are sure to impress “ele”fans of all ages.
The 15,600 square feet Elephant Barn features eight separate stalls with different configuration opportunities plus a community stall. Large windows allow guests optimal viewing of the girls while in the community stall from the boardwalk above. Other barn highlights include a radiant floor heating system, raised office with 360 degree view of interior, ambient lighting through windows and skylights and hydraulic-operated animal gates.
Elephants love to swim and each of the three yards; bull, center and herd were designed with pools. The herd yard includes the biggest pool, 12 foot deep plus a waterfall and stream- perfect for making a splash! The yards also include giant shade structures. Built to provide cooling shade for the elephants during warm days, each structure is approximately 30 feet tall.
Meet our girls and their care-givers during one of the daily behavioral presentations in the new Elephant Pavilion. Daily routines such as baths, foot care and training sessions will be seen from the pavilion at 1:15 p.m. weather permitting and are free to attend.
Funding for this $13 million project came from the Zoo’s 1/8 of a cent sales tax, private donations from the Inasmuch Foundation, Devon Energy and ZooFriends memberships.
“This is an exciting time for the Zoo as we re-introduce the elephants to our guests and share this state-of-the-art new habitat with them,” said Dwight Scott, Oklahoma City Zoo Executive Director/CEO. “I’m grateful for the tremendous support the Zoo receives from the community and proud of our team for their continued drive to further our conservation efforts at the zoo and globally.”
The Zoo’s dedication to the care of its elephants, and the protection of wild elephants, is key to our mission. We support vital conservation work in Asia that protect elephants and their habitat, reducing human⁄elephant conflict and incorporating the talents of the people who live in their midst. The Zoo supports the PanEco Foundation, Sumatra with a focus on elephant habitat protection, assisting in elephant/human conflict, responding to crop raids by elephants, setting up elephant corridors, promoting eco-tourism at the Tangkahan Conservation Response Unit (CRU) as well as work at other CRUs.
Elephant conservation is extremely complex and must take into account both human and animal needs. Negative elephant⁄human interactions include crop loss, human fatalities and damage to houses or other structures. Positive interactions include ecotourism, especially when the local community benefits from the tourist revenues. By working to save the native habitat of elephants, we also help dozens of other species through our conservation efforts. Seeing elephants in their natural environment may create inspirational experiences that foster positive attitudes towards elephants. Creative solutions to human⁄elephant conflicts must involve the local people and benefit them, as well as elephants. Making connections for the guests with our elephants and working collaboratively with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, accredited zoos and other experts will help protect these magnificent animals, their shrinking habitats and countless other species in their environment.
Show us your BIGgest grin! The Zoo will be hosting the “Elephant Photo Safari” contest from now through April 9. The Zoo has teamed up with Little Caesars, KJ103, 101.9 The Twister, News9 and News9.com. to celebrate the elephant habitat’s grand opening. Visit one of the photo safari stations located in select metro-area Little Caesars stores, Quail Springs and Sooner Malls and the Zoo and click a pic of yourself with our special photo display! E-mail it to the Zoo to be randomly selected for daily and weekly prizes. Five lucky children will win an Elephant VIP Party, and one lucky winner will win the grand prize, a Rainbow Play Set provided by Statuary World. Last day to submit photos is April 8. The grand prize winner will be announced on April 15.
The elephant extravaganza continues with planned festivities for spring break. Meet the Zoo’s new mascot, Penny throughout the week. Plus, the first 500 children to visit the Zoo through Sunday, March 20, receive free elephant ears to wear courtesy of the Zoo and Little Caesars!
Come be a part of the celebration! Located at the crossroads of I-35 and I-44 in the heart of Oklahoma City’s Adventure District, the Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with exhibit buildings closing at 4:45 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children ages three to 11 and seniors ages 65 and older. Children two and under are free. Are you a Zoo fan? Find us at facebook.com/okczoobg. For more information, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.com. For all things elephant click on the elephant link on our website. You’ll learn about our elephant care team, plants, creature comforts and more.