State News

N.C. Zoo reopens with expanded elephant, rhinoceros exhibit

Posted April 5, 2008 9:38 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2008 8:48 a.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Zoo opened the gates Saturday on its first major addition in more than 10 years.

The improved Watani Grasslands Reserve features one of the collections of African elephants in North America, zoo officials said. Seven African elephants roam a 7-acre enclosure.

The expanded grasslands exhibit also contains triple the number of rhinoceroses and room for four times the antelopes that the original complex did.

New overlooks allow visitors to get much closer to the elephants, zoo officials said. One high school senior told The News & Observer she could smell them.

The N.C. Zoological Society gathered $7 million in private donations for the project, while the state put up $1.5 million.

Animal advocacy groups have argued that animals held captive should be retired to sanctuaries and allowed to live out their lives in relative comfort with room to move.

Zoo director David Jones said exhibiting elephants is important to promote animal conservation. The zoo's elephant breeding program exceeds the revised recommended standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.