Giants of the Savanna Preview at the Dallas Zoo

Yesterday the Dallas Zoo did a hard-hat sneak peak of its new Giants of the Savanna exhibit. The elephants are back, and they’ll be well cared for. So Chill out, Lily Tomlin. We dispatched intern Traci Mitchell, who files her report (with pics) after the jump.

Get Sprayed by an Elephant

A 7-foot-tall pile of sand sits in the “community room” at the recently built elephant barn. Who knew elephants love to dig? Surrounded by huge protective beams and a 7.5-ton hydraulic lift, this area will soon operate as a kind of hangout room for six elephants. At this point, the habitat is still very much under construction. But one thing is obvious: the elephants are finally getting some respect.

On Memorial Day weekend, May 28, the Giants of the Savanna habitat opens at the Dallas Zoo. This long-awaited animal exhibit covers 11 acres and will soon be home to 10 different species. Lions, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and elephants are a just a few of the lucky ones that will wander this vast enclosure.

With all the controversy surrounding the Dallas Zoo and one very special elephant — no need for names — the new and improved elephant habitat is very much designed to show any naysayers they were wrong. The barn comes complete with play area, padded floors, and a kind of animal hugger. This huge technological masterpiece of metal holds the elephant snuggly so it can be treated carefully without sedation.

But the true elephant fun begins outside. It seems they thought of everything. At the “wobble tree,” elephants can push large baskets of fruit to the ground directly in front of spectators. Guests can get pretty close to the animals. In fact, you might even get to touch an elephant backside. Really. There are cubbyholes for hiding food and huge body scratching beams protruding from the ground. Swimming holes and GPS tracking devices make sure the elephants get plenty of exercise. Seriously, this is some good loving.

The zoo designed the enclosure to continually stimulate the animals with activities they might do in the wild. It is not a passive exhibit. Opportunities for interactivity with the animals are everywhere. With a price tag of $30 million, it is obvious the Dallas Zoo wants this habitat to put them in the national spotlight.

My favorite part of the exhibit has to be the elephant rock. You see, when the elephant pulls on the rock, it is designed to blast water all over unsuspecting passers by. Finally, the elephants get some revenge. Of course, they are not sure how the elephants will respond to this activity.

My advice? Bring an extra shirt. — Traci Mitchell

DSCN0634DSCN0641What? You want some video? We’ve got that, too.

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