By Malcolm Curtis
The Zurich Zoo is boasting more space for its largest occupants.
On Saturday, the zoo is opening its Kaeng Krachan elephant park to visitors, hailing what it calls a “new era” in care for its six pachyderms.
The 11,000-square-metre park features six times the space of the previous enclosure and six water basins for the elephants to swim in.
Visitors can get an aquarium view of them under the water in one of the basins, which has a glass wall.
“Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Rome the Coliseum — Zurich now has its elephant park,” Martin Naville, chairman of the zoo, told news media on Wednesday at an open house event to present the 57-million-franc ($63.5-million) facility.
The new space is designed to give the elephants conditions more closely resembling their natural environment, zoo director Alex Rübel said.
They have places to socialize where keepers are not allowed to go, with covered and open areas with different vegetation.
The park takes its name from the Kaeng Krachan national elephant park in Thailand, where the Zurich Zoo supports a project to protect Asian elephants.
The zoo said on its website that the elephants have been in the new park since mid-March and have plenty of time to acclimatize to their new conditions.
The herd is about to get bigger with the addition of a male elephant while one of the females, Indi, is expecting a third calf, the zoo said.
The cost of the elephant park was financed through foundation grants, legacies and sums donated by 5,500 individuals.