Dallas Zoo previews new $31 million Savanna exhibit




Posted on March 11, 2010 at 5:35 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 11 at 7:50 PM

DALLAS — With construction continuing and the grand opening just two months away, the  Dallas Zoo on Thursday offered a preview of its new 11-acre, $31 million Giants of the Savanna exhibit.

It's being called the game-changer for the Dallas Zoo that officials hope will change perceptions and the zoo's overall reputation.

"It's going to be the most important 11 acres this zoo has ever developed, and set a new standard for us in a lot of different ways," said the zoo's executive director, Gregg Hudson.

The Dallas Zoo has been fighting controversy for years and has answered their critics by building lavish facilities, especially for their elephants.

Jenny and her new friends will have six acres to live on, three times larger than their current compound.

The  new elephant barn has padded, heated floors and sand dunes for playing.

They'll have plenty of company.

When complete, the Savanna exhibit will have six elephants, more than a dozen impalas, ostrich and zebras, along with five lions, 14 giraffe, cheetahs, and warthogs — all in their protective zones.

The exhibit will be interactive. Visitors can go certain places to touch the elephants and feed the giraffes.

A cafe has been built with a curved glass wall, so lions can walk through while you're dining.

But will it all be enough to change minds and turn around a tough decade for the Dallas Zoo? Time will tell.

There is still a lot of work to be done before the grand opening.

The zoo hopes to start moving the elephants to their new barn by the end of this month or early next, with lions, giraffes and cheetahs in line next.

The goal is to have all of the animals in their new homes by the end of April to give them a month to get comfortable in their new homes.

The grand opening is Memorial Day weekend.

E-mail ccivale@wfaa.com