This time last week, the Project Elephant construction site was nothing more than a hole in the ground… to the untrained eye, that is. We’re assured that months of ground work and preparation have been going on, including some fairly major jobs like moving mains cables and burying a tank to harvest rainwater.
All of a sudden, as if from nowhere, we’ve got the beginnings of a building. A really, really big building!
We popped over onto the (very soggy) site to get some pictures and give you your very first exclusive tour…
As we walk up the muddy slope which will one day form the main visitor walkway into the new house, we paused for a moment to take in the sheer scale of the project. You can see in the photograph above that just to the left is a set of big green gates. Those gates are 8ft tall, which gives you an idea of just how tall the structure is!
When we turn around on that spot we can see back over the service yard and into the zoo beyond. Don’t worry, this will all be tidied up and hidden away from view, but for now it gives a good reference point to get your bearings as you can see the Main Entrance building and Amazonia in the distance, look carefully and you might just spot the top of the tortoise house peeking out over the trees.
A little bit further up the walkway, you can see the Bull area come into view. As we were walking round the team were hard at work building the wall on the far side – designed to house a fully grown male elephant, this is by far the strongest part of the house.
We’re now standing in what will one day be the Bull area, looking through to the main indoor space, where the floor will be covered in a very deep layer of sand. You can see there are several panels of both training wall and solid wall, each about 4 metres wide. It’s from here that our keepers will be performing daily health checks with the elephants and working with them on their training behaviours.
Just above the training wall is where you’ll be standing – on a vast walkway giving you a fantastic view into the house below.
Behind those training walls is a 5 metre wide corridor in which our Keepers will be based – it’s a huge space, through which we’ll be able to drive any one of our large service vehicles should we wish, with visitors walking over head.
Back outside, as we head down the walkway we can see out over the huge expanse of paddock. To the left you can see the space where we’ll be constructing a deep jumbo sized pool. The roller isn’t a permanent fixture, but it does illustrate quite nicely just how big the paddock is, as it’s almost equal in length to a fully grown elephant.
The walkway will continue down into the Dinosaur Safari area, past our new catering outlet and into the zoo beyond.
Here there’ll be a 4 metre wide footpath for you to see the elephants from ground level, with unobstructed views thanks to some innovative safety design features.
Standing on the site of what will one day hopefully be home to a family group of Asian Elephants makes it really sink in just how big this project is. The sheer scale of the structure is phenomenal, and if ever you want to feel small… this is the place for you!!
We’ll keep you posted as things progress, but for now, we hope you’ve enjoyed your first behind the scenes tour of Project Elephant!!