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National Zoo Opens Swanky New Home For Asian Elephants

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Shanti exploring the inside of the new Elephant Community Center at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
Andrea Pohlman, Smithsonian's National Zoo
Shanti exploring the inside of the new Elephant Community Center at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

After seven years and $56 million, the three elephants of the Smithsonian National Zoo finally have a state of the art house they can call home.

The huge indoor space, called the Community Center, is still very sunny. It has a pool, as well as a shower that elephants can activate by stepping on a panel. Portions of the floor are padded, and other parts have four-feet of fine sand that the elephants can use to bath themselves for protection from both the sun and bugs.

The community center is the centerpiece of the Zoo's rebuilt Elephant Trails exhibit. The goal of the massive renovation is to give the Asian elephants the best possible care, as well as allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the endangered species.

"Every day our elephants become more comfortable in their new surroundings," said Tony Barthel, curator of Elephant Trails, in a release. "We hope our visitors' experience with Ambika, Shanthi and Kandula helps them feel connected to the Zoo's herd and inspires them to help protect Asian elephants in the wild."

The public opening of the exhibit is Saturday, March 23 at noon.

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