Leading Animal Care
Toyota Elephant Passage is the largest exhibit Denver Zoo has undertaken in its 114-year history, occupying 10 acres within the Zoo’s existing 80-acre footprint. Toyota Elephant Passage:
- Helps ensure the survival of Asian elephants as one of the largest and most advanced elephant facilities in North America, capable of housing up to eight bull (male) elephants or various social groupings of male and female elephants.
- Provides spacious and innovative habitats for Asian elephants, Greater one-horned rhinos, Malayan tapirs, white-cheeked gibbons, sarus cranes, clouded leopards, flying fox (large fruit bats), fishing cats, Asian small clawed otters and other important Asian species.
- Advances Denver Zoo’s conservation, research and ecotourism programs that help animals by helping people.
- Immerses guests 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.
- Engages and inspire guests with educational programs and experience with up-close animal views in richly themed environments.
“The exhibit features of Toyota Elephant Passage enable us to provide excellent mental and physical stimulation for the animals on a level no one has ever done for some of these species. We will also be able to provide additional levels of care by increasing our capabilities for daily husbandry and veterinary needs. It is truly the best exhibit of its kind,” shares Vice President for Animal Collections Brian Aucone.
Asian elephants, greater one-horned rhinos and Malayan tapirs can rotate among five unique, abundant habitats with a sixth yard the tapirs can access. Mud wallows, scratching trees, shade structures and more than one million gallons of water for swimming and bathing have been developed to ensure active and healthy animals.
The indoor quarters for the animals are also designed for creature comforts. In the Clayton F. Freiheit Elephant House, a unique system enables zookeepers to change the flooring material inside the building. Sand or soil can be moved in and out of the elephant bedrooms and communal Koelbel Family Elephant Parlor, providing soft surfaces that can be replaced for cleanliness. This is a valuable tool to ensure the best in foot care for these large pachyderms. The barn also features a self-activated shower in the parlor where elephants can choose to have a rinse by pushing a button with their trunks. In the rhino/tapir building, indoor pools are another swimming option for these water-loving species.
Denver Zoo utilizes a training style called positive operant conditioning to teach the animals how to move through the more than 130 gates throughout the exhibit. Using positive reinforcement, animals are asked to follow a target, which shows them where to go. When the animal follows the target, they are rewarded with something they enjoy, like treats. Training with the elephants, rhinos and tapirs is done through a method called protected contact, where zookeepers do not share the same space as the animals, but rather work with them through the safety of a barrier.
Guests will see training in action at three animal-crossing locations throughout the exhibit where guest and animal
pathways intersect. Zookeepers will also give periodic demonstrations that showcase the many abilities these charismatic creatures possess at the 400-seat McGrath Family Amphitheater.
Both the rhino/tapir indoor night quarters and the elephant house have veterinary care systems that are used to stabilize animals for veterinary procedures. The elephant house has two of these devices, one that can tilt a full-grown elephant onto its side safely for examinations and procedures.
The exhibit also will help create sustainable populations of endangered Asian species. Toyota Elephant Passage is the first facility in the country able to house a significant group of bull (male) elephants. Up to eight adult bull elephants can live in the exhibit at a time. The creation of additional housing for large bulls supports breeding programs among accredited zoos by allowing these facilities to continue their breeding programs, even when they no longer have room for an additional male. The exhibit’s veterinary devices also enable the zoo to participate in breeding programs to create a stable population of this species through semen collection.