Letting the elephants roam; work begins on new exhibit

PORTLAND, Ore. - Work has officially begun on a brand new home for the elephants at the Oregon Zoo.

It's a 6.25-acre exhibit called Elephant Lands.

It will have hilly corridors, shade structures and pools. The zoo's director says this new exhibit will be "one of a kind."

The elephants will no longer have to wait for a zookeeper to open a door for them to explore.

"If they want to spend some time in the snow, they can choose to do that," said Kim Smith, Oregon Zoo's director. "If Packy wants to hang out with the herd or by himself he can choose it, not us. It's really important to us."

Smith says the elephants will have 14 to 16 hours a day to explore on their own.

Planning for Elephant Lands has been in the works since 2008 when voters approved a $125 million bond measure to fund improvements to the zoo.

It will open in 2015.

A drawing of what the Elephant Lands 6.25-acre exhibit will look like.