Denver Zoo opens $50 million Toyota Elephant Passage

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DENVER -- It could be a zoo at the Denver Zoo.

After months of anticipation, the zoo is opening its new $50 million Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit.

And, for the first time, they'll require reservations to see the zoo's 16 new species.

More than 6,000 reservations are already booked throughout June, and the first two hours Friday are sold out. It's evidence of the eager anticipation to see the zoo's newest residents in their state-of-the art digs.

On Thursday, the Siberian tiger was here.

So was the warthog.

The camels.

And the lion.

But the only animals we found inside the Denver Zoo's new 10-acre exhibit are the human ones.

"Today, Toyota elephant passage was closed as we make final preparations for our grand opening tomorrow,” says zoo spokesperson Tiffany Barnhart.

By 3 p.m., workers emptied the exhibit of its animal attractions as workers spruce up the space, removing a privacy fence, and planting trees.

"We had thought the elephant exhibit would be open today we were mistaken," says visitor Bob Ells.

Eager elephant aficionados show up ready to eyeball the new animals--which thousands got to see earlier this month at a sneak peak.

Asian elephants Bohdi and Groucho enjoying several pools--even a hot tub.

Gibbons hanging around.

A fishing cat grabbing lunch.

Tapirs trotting about.

And rhinos roaming around.

"He’s been asking all day to see the elephants. So, we've been looking for them," says Lora Tuholske about her young son, Jaden.

But they won't find them.

"We’re kind of disappointed we came today,” she laughs.

It's what the zoo hopes to avoid with its new reservations system.

"What it's going to allow us to do is really control crowding in here. And make it a great experience for everyone," says Barnhart.

As the animals get ready to share their new home with thousands of house guests.

A general admission ticket covers the new exhibit.

Ticket prices:

  • $15: Ages 12-64
  • $10: Ages 3-11
  • $10: Ages 65+
  • Free: 2 and under

Normally the zoo sees about 7,500 visitors a day during its peak.

This new exhibit could drive that up to 10,000 a day.