What’s New at the National Zoo?

Many JHU students visit The National Zoo in Washington, DC as part of our Principles and Methods of Ecology class, but if you’ve never been or haven’t been in a while there are some exciting things happening!

Elephants Settle In

Signage for the Elephant Community Center at the National Zoo photo by Sinead Goldman

Signage for the Elephant Community Center at the National Zoo photo by Sinead Goldman

This March, a new Elephant Community Center opened to the delight of zoo visitors and the zoo’s three Asian Elephants. The community center features a new barn with a water pool and two newly renovated outdoor spaces. The new spaces includes more interactive tools for the elephants including hanging toys, a scratching post, and a “wobble” tree designed to be knocked over. All of these features cater to natural behaviors that elephants would exhibit in the wild.

The elephants now have much more space than before the renovations, and will be taking on a new roommate when another female Asian elephant arrives from the Baton Rouge Zoo. All told, the new elephant spaces at the National Zoo could house a herd of 10-12 elephants. While the elephants themselves will leave large footprints on their new habitat, the habitat itself has a relatively small environmental footprint as it was designed to meet LEED Gold Certification Standards. The new barn includes a green roof, advanced insulation, natural lighting and ventilation options, and structural steel with a high recycled content, among other green features.

Conservation Carousel

Conservation Carousel photo by Sinead Goldman

Conservation Carousel photo by Sinead Goldman

The elephant exhibit is not the only one with environmental sustainability at the forefront. The Speedwell “Conservation Carousel” opened in November 2012 and runs completely on energy from solar panels (donated by Pepco) and includes an interactive display where zoo guests can see how much energy is being generated. A nearby rain garden to reduce stormwater runoff completes the experience.

Local Wonders

Visitors often come to the zoo seeking exotic creatures from faraway lands, but the new American Trail exhibit houses several species native to the Americas. You can see beavers, otters, California sea lions, bald eagles, gray wolves and more. Keeping with the sustainability trend, the new exhibit was constructed using low-impact construction methods and many materials that meet LEED design standards.

The impressive pools for seals and sea lions use recycled water which is treated by special ozone filtration systems. These features allow the pools to use less than half the water used by similar pools with standard water systems.

The National Zoo is easily accessible via the Metro system in DC. It’s open 364 days a year, with 400 species, and zero dollars to visit! Have you visited the zoo lately? Which is your favorite exhibit?

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