Samantha Hayes reporting They say an elephant never forgets. But when the elephants at Hogle Zoo see their new habitat, they may never want to look back.
Visitors at the zoo don't like to see the animals stuck in small places. So this exhibit is supposed to be much better.
This is what it looked like before--everyone standing in one area to take pictures and gaze at the elephants several yards away.
But in a few weeks, the experience will be quite a bit different.
Craig Dinsmore/ Executive Director: "We'll build this up a little bit and then you'll be standing right outside those windows so you'll literally be that close."
"The Elephant Encounter" is also three times as large and is designed to show elephants doing elephant things.
Craig Dinsmore: "In here the elephants have opportunities to go down these gigantic stairways and actually emerse themselves fully in the pool."
Everything in the exhibit is especially strong enough to support a full grown 10 thousand pound elephant. And there's a heated area, so inclement weather won't keep them cooped up inside.
Craig Dinsmore: "They'll have access to an area they haven't had before, even in bad days, even in bad weather."
It's supposed to be good for the elephants and the people, educating visitors about the animals and conservation in the new African Lodge.
And the zoo wants to use the facility after hours as a place to host parties, even wedding receptions. Perhaps you can imagine having dinner with the elephants.
Craig Dinsmore: "We can set this up with tables. We have a full catering department. We can serve dinner."
Its a $5 million project and part of Hogle's Zoo's grand plan to build better environments for all the animals.
Craig Dinsmore: "Right from the start we want to engage our guests in an experiment that talks about elephants and why they are special."
"Elephant Encounter" will be the largest exhibit to open at the zoo in 25 years. It was paid for by the Salt Lake City General Obligation Bond. You can see it this summer.