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.
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.
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