For Release: September 2010
Karin Korpowski-Gallo (202) 633-3082 or or (202) 904-8724
Communications Office (202) 633-3055
The new Elephant Barn provides over 5,700 feet of livable indoor space for current and future elephants. The barn includes “suites” for multiple or individual elephants. It features on-site storage for browse and hay with a large room for keepers to prepare daily diets. The barn’s second floor, which includes offices and a conference room, features a catwalk where staff can observe all of the indoor elephant suites.
Currently, the Zoo’s three Asian elephants—females Ambika, 62, and Shanthi, 34, and Shanthi’s 8-year-old male offspring, Kandula—are housed in this building while the current Elephant House, part of Phase II of Elephant Trails, is under renovation and will become the Elephant Community Center. The Community Center will be open to the public; the barn is not.
The two new yards of Phase I have almost two acres of varied terrain and greatly expanded outdoor space. Shade structures in the yard provide sun protection in the summer, and heaters offer warmth in the winter. Nearly 30 geothermal wells, each hundreds of feet deep, use heat from deep within the earth to warm the floors and walls of the barn. A recirculating, water-efficient pool offers a refreshing escape from the Washington, D.C., heat in the summer. The pool features a jet spray that blasts water into the pool for the elephants to enjoy as a form of enrichment. Elephant-friendly plants have been planted along the edges of the yards by the Zoo’s horticulture team.
The Elephant Trek, an exhibit feature exclusive to the National Zoo, provides a unique, invigorating alternative for regular outdoor exercise. A quarter-mile walking path for elephants, the Trek begins at the bottom of the large outdoor yard, near the Outpost and continues uphill through a wooded area of the Zoo.
The Homer and Martha Gudelsky Elephant Outpost features dramatic views of the new elephant yards, pool and the Elephant Trek. Visitors will also find interactive exhibits that bring to life the challenges facing Asian elephants in the wild. They will learn about the conservation work that National Zoo scientists are doing to help save Asian elephants and discover what they can do to support the Zoo’s efforts.
Outpost features include:
Willow Elephant Sculptures—The life-size Asian elephant sculptures at the entrance and end of the Outpost Path are made out of natural willow branches woven over a stainless steel frame. Sculptor Steve Manning of Topiary Art Designs in the U.K. created the mother, baby and bull elephant sculptures. Manning is widely known as an expert in topiary and garden sculpture. The bull elephant structure sits at the entrance of the Outpost Path, while mother and baby await visitors at the entrance to the Outpost itself.
Elephant Footprints—The life-size elephant footprints that lead visitors down the Outpost Path are based on the actual footprints and stride of the Zoo’s oldest elephant, Ambika.
Range Map and Conservation Projects—The 17-foot-wide map shows the dramatic reduction in Asian elephant habitat over the past 100 years. Conservation facts and current population statistics reinforce how serious the situation facing Asian elephants is today. Visitors can also learn about innovative elephant conservation projects that are happening across Asia.
Asian Elephant Portraits (on wall)—Two life-size portraits of elephants show visitors an amazing, high-definition view of a real Asian elephant. Wrinkles, hair and skin texture are all clearly visible. Their biographies are also displayed with the portraits. These photographs were taken by Klaus Reisinger.
Donation Kiosk—How Can Someone Help Save Asian Elephants?—The kiosk asks visitors to become active participants in saving Asian elephants—both by making changes in their personal lives and by contributing monetarily to support conservation research. At the kiosk, visitors vote with their dollars (any denomination bill) for their favorite conservation project. An elephant will trumpet its “thank you” when a transaction is complete. The kiosk displays a life-size image of a young male Asian elephant from Thailand, also photographed by Reisinger.
Tracking Asian Elephants—This interactive station depicts the science and adventure of tracking wild Asian elephants. Visitors learn why National Zoo researchers track elephants and what their work means for elephant conservation. The tracking station offers three different animations of elephant movement in Sri Lanka. These simulations are based on real research data from Zoo scientists and its research partner, the Centre for Conservation and Research in Sri Lanka.
Tracking Tools Display—A variety of authentic tools and equipment used to track wild Asian elephants is displayed and interpreted on the back side of the Donation Kiosk. A giant 4-foot-wide elephant tracking collar, designed to fit around an elephant’s neck, is displayed for visitors to touch.
African and Asian Elephant Comparison—Ever wondered about the difference between an African and Asian elephant? This interactive display compares and contrasts the two species and pinpoints some of their key physical differences.
The Science of Elephant Poop—Exhibit Table—Elephant poop is so much more than waste matter…its scientific gold! The many uses for poop in the lab and in the field are illustrated in this exhibit table. Visitors can spin a centrifuge, run hormone lab tests and learn what’s inside elephant excrement. The importance of poop in elephant conservation is truly surprising.
Find Elephant Clues—Exhibit Table—Be a field researcher in Asia at this interactive table. Measure footprints to learn an elephant’s height, examine an elephant bone, estimate the size of elephant poop or learn about camera traps. The clues that elephants leave behind help scientists solve mysteries, such as how many elephants there are and where they like to live.
Elephant Labyrinth Game—By tilting this giant version of the classic “labyrinth” game, players help move an “elephant” safely home to its herd. While traveling between forest habitats, they must avoid danger zones such as villages, railroads, palm oil plantations and poachers.
Outpost Shop and Snacks—The Outpost Shop provides refreshments and elephant-themed gifts. The merchandise includes artisan items that are crafted in Indonesia and eco-friendly elephant products. Refreshments are elephant-friendly and do not contain palm oil.
Restrooms—Additional Zoo restrooms have been added at the Outpost and they feature light-hearted—but interesting— graphics that highlight fun facts about elephant bodily functions.
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