Construction work has begun on a new 20 acre elephant sanctuary in Bristol this month, as bosses at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm commit to open ‘Elephant Eden’ in 2013.
A year since the launch of the project with former MP and zoo supporter Ann Widdecombe, the Wraxall farm has begun work on building a new home for elephants in the UK.
Officials at the zoo have confirmed that Elephant Eden, which will include 20 acres of grazing territory and become one of the largest elephant exhibits in Europe, will open by summer 2013 for visitors.
Designed to offer welfare-improvements to elephants already living in captivity, Elephant Eden could become home to elephants with behavioural issues which are causing them difficulties in their current homes, rescue animals, or elephants from collections with a lack of space.
Key features of the Elephant Eden complex include a heated elephant house with deep sand yards to promote good foot health. It could become the largest elephant house of any zoo when a Phase 2 extension is added in the future.
The 20 acre outdoor environment, which will include woodland, mud wallows and crops for strip-grazing, will make Noah’s Ark’s Elephant Eden the largest enclosure in Northern Europe.
The zoo says there will also be a comprehensive enrichment program provided to vary food delivery, encourage activity and natural foraging and social behaviours in their elephants.
The new development will also include a deep outdoor bathing pool for up to three elephants to use at once, giving skin-care benefits, exercise and mental stimulation.
According to zoo owner Anthony Bush, Elephant Eden is a “significant step forward” in the care of elephants in captivity, using the best designs and techniques taken from the top zoos in the UK.
“Elephant Eden will be a new chapter in the history of elephant accommodation - and is the result of extensive thought and planning,” he said.
“Elephants are the largest land mammals, and we want to create a destination of paradise for these important creatures.”
More information on which elephants will join the new sanctuary will be released by the zoo during the next six months as plans are finalised.