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What Kids Will Love at Denver Zoo’s New Toyota Elephant Passage (Win Preview Tickets!)

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**CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to winner Lisa Matsuo Williams!!**

It’s finally here, folks! The Toyota Elephant Passage–the Denver Zoo’s new elephant habitat–has been nearly a decade in the making and will finally open to the public on June 1, 2012.

With 10 acres of varied terrain and 2 miles of interconnected trails, Toyota Elephant Passage not only showcases Southeast Asia’s wildlife (including Asian elephants, one-horned rhinoceros, Malayan tapir, the fishing cat, clouded leopard and the Asian small-claws otters) but tells the stories of people and places in tropical Asia.

On Thursday, my daughter Hadley and I got a preview of the preview. Finishing touches were being put on the exhibit and very few animals were in place but it was enough to make us excited for this immersive exhibit that celebrates the rich cultural connections of Asian people with wildlife.

The 411 on the Exhibit

The Toyota Elephant Passage is indeed just that–a passage. Throughout the day, you will be able to experience three animal crossings above and right in front of you as they move to different yards. The 400-seat McGrath Family Amphitheater is where zookeepers will give regular demonstrations.

There are three main parts to the exhibit:

1) Village Outpost–Depicts a rural village and the local struggle to co-exist with the elephants. Kid-friendly: The Granary is a hut where you can see a knocked-down wall–evidence of how destructive an elephant can be when fighting for resources to survive.

2) Schoelzel Family Village–This happenin’ plaza will be where the action is. Kid-friendly: Explore a local market and learn Hindu and Buddhist traditions with various booths. Make a prayer flag on select days. Let your children spin the prayer wheels.
They will also love climbing on the Mark and Sally Murray Leopard Log or just pretending to go for a ride in a Tuk-Tuk.

Note: I am screaming partially due to the crazy driver but also out of discomfort because those back seats are made for short people.

3) Chang Pa Wildlife Preserve–Don’t like barriers? Then you’ll love watching the white-cheeked gibbons (apes) swing directly over your boardwalk between three island habitats. This peaceful, beautiful area shows how animals are managed in protected areas of Southeast Asia. Kid-friendly: Swing like monkeys at the Brachiation Station. Identify animal tracks at the Khao Yai Research Station, or try on a pair of over-sized ears at the Elephant Listening Station.

Fun facts:

  • More than one million gallons of water for swimming and bathing have been developed to ensure active and healthy animals.
  • Toyota Elphant Passage is the first facility in the United States to house a significant group of bull (male) elephants. Up to eight adult bull elephants can live there at one time.
  • There are more than 130 gates for the animals throughout the exhibit. Trainers teach the animals to move through them by using “positive operant conditioning” (the animal follows a target and is rewarded with something they enjoy).
  • What You Need to Know

    Denver Zoo is offering Sneak Peeks for guests to see Toyota Elephant Passage May 19 – 30 before it opens to the public on June 1. For an additional fee guests can experience the new exhibit with the purchase of a timed entry reservation to access the exhibit. Space is limited and the most popular times are expected to sell out quickly. Go here for more information.

    Important: When the Toyota Elephant Passage opens on June 1, you cannot just show up to view the exhibit. You must go online to make your timed entry reservations here.. Timed entry reservations are FREE with zoo admission and offer visitors the ability to select specific times to enjoy Toyota Elephant Passage. This will allow guests to enjoy shorter lines and a better viewing experience.


    Mile High Mamas is giving away four tickets to the Toyota Elephant Passage preview that will run May 19-30, 2012. Go here to enter. Contest deadline is May 20, 2012.

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