WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Local schoolchildren were among the crowd giving a big housewarming party to the three Asian Elephants at the National Zoo today.
Kindergarten student Ethan Schipper, 3rd Grader Sarah Price, and 5th Grader Tony Phonemany all read aloud from their letters to the 3 elephants in the newly-revamped exhibit, Elephant Trails.
The project was 7 years in the making, and involved total collaboration between architects, planners, and the animal's caregivers. Dennis Kelly, the Director of the National Zoo, says, "We successfully transformed a 1930s building into a state of the art facility for animal care and animal research". Chuck Fillah, the Associate Director of Planning, adds, "Not only can they be indoors, they can all be outdoors, so... we provide them places to choose where they want to be".
Elephant Manager Marie Galloway says, "We hope to raise a family of mothers, sisters, daughters, and then the young males who will also have space to gradually separate from the herd as they choose to do so".
The old enclosure lacked the habitat diversity of this new space, which can accommodate at least 8 Asian Elephants. Elephant Trails has plenty of activities to keep the animals busy, and the visitors, too. It's a massive expansion from their former home, which now takes up nearly 30,000 square feet of the Zoo's space at a cost of $56 million. In order to make room, other popular animals (giraffes, African elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and pygmy hippos) were relocated to other facilities.
You can check out the children's letters by clicking this link.