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Dallas Zoo Opens Savanna Habitat

Jenny after cutting the ribbon with her friend Gypsy
Jenny after cutting the ribbon with her friend Gypsy

By BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas, TX – The Dallas Zoo "Giants of the Savanna Exhibit" opens to the public tomorrow. KERA's BJ Austin got a sneak peek at the ribbon cutting today.

Drumbeats signaled the ribbon cutting on the 30 million dollar, 11 acre savanna habitat. Its construction was put on the fast-track after pressure to send the Zoo's only elephant, Jenny, to a sanctuary in Tennessee where she could roam with other elephants. Instead, city bond money and private donations created a new environment for Jenny, who cut the ribbon, along with her companion Gypsy.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert congratulated Zoo and city leaders who were determined to keep Jenny in Dallas and give her a habitat 15 times bigger than her small enclosure she had lived in for 23 years.

Leppert: What people described as a problem was really an opportunity. They showed perseverance. They showed determination. And out of that perseverance, out of that determination comes not only this exhibit, but what this exhibit means as a springboard to be one of the finest zoos anywhere in our nation.

Zoo Director Gregg Hudson says the Savanna is a game-changer allowing visitors a unique look at animal behavior - up close.

Hudson: They're gonna be able to feed a giraffe. They're going to be able to watch elephants roam. They're going to be able to stand nose to nose with a cheetah.

Well there will be 4 inches of tempered glass between those noses. The Elephant Savanna, is home to Jenny, Gypsy, and four other female elephants. It is also an active study facility where experts will collect data on elephant communications, longevity and "foot care" 10 thousand pounds is a lot to support.

Ten species live in the Savanna Exhibit; in addition to elephants, there are cheetahs, lions, zebras, and warthogs.

Email BJ Austin