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N.C. Zoo Takes Internet Users On An Online Safari

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PITTSBORO — The North Carolina Zoological Parkis one of the best in the country. Now it is using the World Wide Web to take students and the public along with researchers in Africa.

The zoo has launched a new Web site called"The Elephants of Cameroon"to show the world what the Zoo and theWorld Wide Fund For Natureare doing to preserve the delicate balance between humans and elephants in the West African country.

Zoo officials say their new Web site is unique. Collaborative and interactive, the site will "take students along" on an unusual safari next month.

Zoo researchers put electronic collars on elephants in Cameroon to track their travels. The project is important because the human and elephant populations in the country are both growing.

"When a herd of elephants the size of 300 animals or so goes through an agricultural area it just totally decimates it," says Dr. Mike Loomis, the N.C. Zoo veterinarian going to Cameroon.

The Web site features an abundant amount of information about elephants and the country of Cameroon. Visitors can find out in an instant where each animal is, tracked through its collar by satellite.

Chatham County Middle School students are excited about the Web site they will be studying.

"It's a great opportunity for seventh graders to have a close up view of what's going on around the world," student Katherine Ryan said.

Complete lesson and study plans are available for teachers and students.

"I want to learn as much about Africa as I possibly can because maybe, when I get older, I'd like to take a trip there," student Kevin Keith said.

Students will be able to E-mail Dr. Loomis in Cameroon and he will answer their questions. There are even plans for live audio from the bush.

The North Carolina Zoological Park is 500 acres of exhibit space; however, the new elephant tracking web site puts the park on the world stage.

"We've taken it upon ourselves to take some risks, and get out there in the world," says Dr. Fran Nolan, N.C. Zoo curator of education. "Our only interests in it are better education and better conservation."

The Zoo hopes the Web site will teach students that animals can live side by side with humans, and not just in zoos.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
John Cox, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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