Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is busy at work with their massive African Grasslands expansion, which will prominently feature a herd of African elephants. The elephants on display at the Henry Doorly Zoo will be six of the eighteen elephants being imported from Swaziland as part of an effort to leave more resources for the struggling black rhino population. Six more of those eighteen elephants are scheduled to arrive at the Sedgwick County Zoo of Wichita, Kansas, where they will live in the brand-new, $10.6-million Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit.
Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend this year. While it may not boast the title of being the country’s largest elephant exhibit (in fact, it will be the third largest), one superlative the zoo can claim title to will be the world’s largest elephant pool, at 550,000 gallons in volume and covering 13,000 square feet.
In addition to the pool, the exhibit will provide the elephant residents with over 5 acres of outdoor space to explore as well as a gigantic indoor facility. The outdoor spaces will be comprised of four separate yards: the north yard, the south yard, and two off-viewing yards located behind the elephant barn.
The south yard will be the largest of the yards, at 3.6 acres in size, and its main features will be a 545-foot long stream that links the north and south yards, and empties into the world’s largest elephant pool. The pool will be equipped with hose features that will allow animal care staff to clean the elephants and provide them with enrichment activities. Guests will also be able to view the pool from boat rides.
The north yard will be the second largest, at 1.2 acres in size, and it will feature an additional 3-foot-deep pool that will cover 3,790 square feet. This pool will be sourced by a 12-foot waterfall, which should be a unique enrichment feature for the elephants, and the water from this pool will then flow into the stream mentioned above. The final two yards, which will be located behind the elephant barn, will be 8,395 square feet each, and if necessary, they can be combined into a single yard depending on which gates are opened.
The 18,000-square-foot indoor facility, which will consist of a family room and six elephant “bedrooms,” will provide the elephants with warmth from cold winter temperatures. The majority of the rooms in the barn will be built with natural substrate flooring to maximize the elephants’ comfort, and the family room will include an additional pool. Other features of the barn have been designed for guests’ access and educational purposes. These features include a kitchen that will allow guests to see what goes into preparing diets for the zoo’s largest residents, as well as a trainer interaction wall that should give guests a glimpse into how trainers and elephants form relationships.
Visitors to the zoo can expect to find the new exhibit located between the Pride of the Plains and the Downing Gorilla Forest exhibits. Below, check out a concept video showing off the layout of the expansion.