Monday, May 10, 2010

Dallas Does Better for Jenny

Two years ago, Jenny was a very unhappy African elephant. She lived in a small, barren enclosure of less than an acre. Her most recent companion had died, leaving her alone. Worse yet, the Dallas Zoo planned to send her to a drive-through animal park in Mexico.
Animal advocates across the country leaped to her assistance. A local group of her supporters protested outside the zoo and took her case to the City Council. Even Lily Tomlin got involved, visiting Jenny and speaking to the council on her behalf. Several members of the Dallas City Council were in favor of moving Jenny to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
The zoo backed down on the plan to send her to Mexico after it was made clear to the public just how unsuitable the drive-through park would be for Jenny. The space would have been small, and visitors would have been able to drive completely around her space at all hours of day and night. How can anyone relax when there is no time of day guaranteed to be hers alone?
Jenny also has an aversion to the loud noise and sight of heavy equipment. Years ago, she witnessed a large machine remove a companion who had died in their shared enclosure. Not understanding what it was, she likely thought it was some kind of monster hurting her friend. If we put ourselves in her position, I think we could relate to that. Imagine fearing vehicles and being subjected to them driving around you at any time.
So the zoo announced plans to hasten a renovation project that would allow them to bring in more elephants. Jenny would not go to a sanctuary, but the zoo promised to bring better accommodations to her.
Well, the new elephant exhibit is almost ready, and Jenny appears to be enjoying it. In an interview with KERA, Dallas Zoo Director Greg Hudson expresses pleasure with how quickly Jenny and her companion, Gypsy, have taken to it. They're playing in the water and the sand. There are four more elephants for Jenny and Gypsy to get to know. The new residents, aged 30 to 40 years, are being called, "The Golden Girls."
The new exhibit is 15 acres in size, although the elephants have only 5 acres of that. Their area includes trees for pushing and rubbing against, water holes and various enrichment stations including a specially constructed African Fig tree that can be shaken to release fruit and nuts. Giraffes, lions and cheetahs will have space in the new Giants of the Savanna exhibit. Two areas can even be opened to allow the species to share space and interact, just like in the wild. Meet the girls and see a sneak peak and description of the features of the new elephant habitat. Watch a quick video tour via a story by WFAA, or meet all the animals in person beginning May 28th.

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