PORTLAND -- On Wednesday, the Oregon Zoo's elephant family had a sneak-peek of an expanded habitat scheduled to open next year.

The elephants including Samdru, Chendra, Rose-Tu and Lily got to lumber around the new Elephant Lands exhibit, still under construction at the Oregon Zoo in Washington Park.

Samudra strolled out right away, said Bob Lee, the zoo s elephant curator. He only slowed down long enough to eat every piece of fruit and vegetable in his path. Chendra sprinted out close behind, inspiring Sam to quicken his pace and venture even further into the habitat.

The zoo is expanding the elephant habitat from 1.5 to 6 acres after voters approved a $125 million improvement bond in 2008.

The new $57 million exhibit will include new feeding stations, mud wallows and a 130,000-gallon pool. The elephants will be encouraged to be active 14-16 hours a day. The exhibit would also have an Elephant Building with indoor areas featuring natural flooring that will allow the animals to wander in and out of doors as they please, according to the zoo.

With rolling meadows, 4-foot-deep sand and one of the world s largest indoor elephant facilities, the new habitat will also offer unique views of the zoo s herd, said Hova Najarian of the Oregon Zoo. Within Forest Hall, visitors on elevated walkways will view elephants within a vast airy arena lit by filtered sunlight with a backdrop of the native fir forest.

The Zoo has launched a campaign to raise an additional $3 million to support the project. Elephant Lands is scheduled to open in 2015.

Read or Share this story: