Photos and Updates
February 23, 2011: Toyota Elephant Passage Nears Half Way Mark
It's almost here! Construction for Denver Zoo's Toyota Elephant Passage habitat, the largest project in the zoo's history, is moving along right on schedule as it nears the halfway point in its completion process. No longer plans on paper, onlookers can now see near-completed structures and imagine sharing space with some of the Earth's largest land mammals in this $50 million project. Six buildings are taking shape, four animal pools have been installed and the Peter and Ella's Crossing animal transfer bridge is in place.
Occupying 10-acres on the southern edge of the zoo, Toyota Elephant Passage' expansive complex will allow visitors to explore and discover the rich history of animals in Asian culture, their complicated relationship with humans and the efforts Denver Zoo and its colleagues undertake to protect their future. Within its walls guests will be immersed in Asian wildlife and culture through multi-sensory experiences providing greater awareness and understanding of the role we all must play in protecting wildlife for future generations. This includes animals such as Asian elephants and Indian rhinos, of which there are less than 35,000 and 3,000, respectively, left in the wild.
The exhibit is planned to provide homes for up to 12 elephants in the future. The unique exhibit is designed to house up to eight bull (male) elephants, something no other U.S. zoo has attempted at this scale.
"With the status of elephants in Asia in continuous decline, there is a serious need to create insurance populations in accredited zoos. Our zoo will support this effort by providing much-needed space for bulls," says Denver Zoo President/CEO Craig Piper.
The exhibit will also support the local economy. More than 300 workers will be employed during the two-year construction period. Once built, the zoo will employ at least 22 new positions to operate the new facilities.
Since breaking ground December 2, 2009, Toyota Elephant Passage has become more of a reality with each passing day. Crews continue to craft artificial limestone rocks, mud banks, crop terraces, and even trees - to make each formation look as it would in a tropical Asian forest. A permanent tower has emerged that will give a bird's eye view of the entire complex. Special guests will be able to see all the outdoor exhibits from one spot, including views of elephants, rhinos, tapirs and gibbons.
A great deal of progress has been made on the exhibit's Schoelzel Family Village. This area will show guests a diverse array of Asian animals and their complex relationships with mankind. Crews have completed the roof of the clouded leopard building and are currently working on its interior.
The walls are going up fast in the El Pomar Pavilion, where guests will find large bats, called flying foxes, Asian small-clawed otters and fishing cats. A truly tactile experience, visitors will be able to slip through the roots of a strangler fig tree to go inside the bat enclosure for the ultimate close encounter with endangered fruit bats.
A leader in environmental stewardship, Denver Zoo is seeking LEED certification for Toyota Elephant Passage. Plans are also in place to power the exhibit with a biomass gasification system. This green technological breakthrough will convert the zoo's diverse waste stream of animal waste and human trash into a usable combustible gas. The gasifier will support the Zoo's efforts to reduce its landfill contributions by more than 90 percent, eliminating 1.5 million pounds of trash currently going to landfills annually and reducing energy and waste hauling costs by $150,000 a year.
Toyota Elephant Passage is slated to open to the public in Spring of 2012. Construction workers will complete the project a few months before the exhibit opens, allowing the zoo to train staff and staff to train animals in the exhibit. Kiewit Building Group has been awarded the construction contract. The 125-year-old company has a strong local resume having previously completed the T-REX mass transit project as well as Denver Zoo's Bird Propagation Center in 2007. More than 300 workers will be employed throughout the two-year construction period.
See the latest construction update.