Denver Zoo gives visitors sneak peek into new exhibit

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DENVER – On Saturday, thousands of people got a sneak peek into the Denver Zoo’s largest and most ambitious project in its history.

Guests got a first look at the $50 million, state-of-the-art exhibit for Asian elephants and 15 other species.

"There's a whole new continent at the Denver Zoo," says Denver Zoo President Craig Piper.

Families brought their little ones to see the biggest, new residents at the Denver Zoo inside Toyota Elephant Passage and to meet Asian bull elephants, Groucho and Bohdi.

Their facility the first in the world designed to house up to eight male elephants and help their species survive.

“Ha, ha, he’s scratching his foot now. He’s having a snack,” says mom Kendra Doucet.

And while elephants get top billing, they’ll share their space with a fishing cat, the world`s largest bats, and northern white-cheeked gibbons.

It’s the first time these animals have laid eyes on humans, and the first time we are seeing them.

The 10-acre exhibit is also unlike any before it.

Animals have six interconnected habitats which they can explore--some with pools, and even hot tubs.

And part of it is free of visible barriers.

“This exhibit is very special in many ways. It’s very immersive for visitors who come here. Instead of walking outside of the animal habitat we take them to the heart of it and the animals surround you,” says Tiffany Barnhart, Denver Zoo spokesperson.

And because of the expected high demand, the Denver Zoo, for the first time ever, will require visitors make reservations, much like they would at a restaurant, to get into the new exhibit.

“Seeing it come to fruition--from drawings nine years ago, to a real exhibit with guests enjoying the experience--is a dream for all of us who work at Denver Zoo,” says Piper.

And no doubt a dream for youngsters who've never seen animals like this.

The elephant exhibit opens June first.

But the Denver Zoo is selling tickets to a sneak peek from May 19-30.