Fort Worth Zoo opens Elephant Springs

Elephant Springs courtesy photo

Second phase of A Wilder Vision

It’s big, it’s wild and it’s wet. But that’s OK with the residents, in this case elephants and rhinos.  

Elephant Springs has opened at the Fort Worth Zoo as its newest habitat.

The Fort Worth Zoo’s Board of Directors and Executive Director officially opened the new habitat, which includes multiple lush, green spaces and various watering holes for Asian elephants and greater one-horned rhinos to roam, on April 15.

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 “We are thrilled with these amazing new habitats and I must thank the citizens of Fort Worth, who continue to be so generous in their support of the Zoo,” said Ramona Bass, chair of the Fort Worth Zoological Association Board of Directors. “None of this would be possible without them.”

Elephant Springs is phase two of A Wilder Vision, the $100 million capital campaign announced in 2016 that includes new spaces, renovated habitats, merchandise locations, restrooms and most importantly, new ways to observe, interact with and learn about animals.

“As the No. 1 zoo in the country, we’re confident that the changes and improvements happening here will continue to elevate our profile as the nation’s top-ranked zoo as well as an international leader in animal care and conservation,” said Fort Worth Zoo President Ardon Moore.

“We are excited to bring guests face-to-face with some of the most unique creatures in the world here at the Fort Worth Zoo,” said Zoo Executive Director Michael Fouraker. “While these animals have resided at the Zoo for some time, guests will be able to get closer to these animals and engage in ways that they’ve never been able to before. Elephant Springs will also shine a light on the struggles many of these animals face in the wild.”

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Highlights include:

  • The Asian elephant herd will roam among multiple yards (including areas behind the scenes) and watering holes.
  • Greater one-horned rhinos explore the neighboring habitats. Expanded spaces for this vulnerable species will allow the Zoo to continue its breeding and conservation program.
  • Observe the herd from a themed floating village; the space also includes restrooms and merchandise.
  • Interact with the herd by spraying water streams into the 400,000-gallon river. Water is a major source of enrichment for Asian elephants.
  • Complete with educational programming such as keeper chats and training demonstrations, Elephant Springs will also share messages of conservation and environmental stewardship.

That’s part of the habitat that can be seen. There is more behind the scenes:

  • Fifteen individual stalls to give the animals their own spaces, although many of the stalls are interconnected and can open into one larger space.
  • A climate-controlled environment includes exhaust fans constantly in motion, keeping the air continuously circulating throughout. There are also heating elements available when necessary.
  • The sand floors provide added comfort for the herd and create an ideal nursery space for calves in the future.
  • Multiple neighboring yards are accessible should the animals choose to venture outdoors overnight.
  • A prep kitchen, food pantry and second-floor hayloft provide easy access to food storage for the herd.
  • Indoor and outdoor training spaces give keepers the ability to get close-up views and, in some cases, hands-on examinations of the animals.
  • The barn includes portable floor scales so that keepers can be sure the animals are within a healthy weight range.
  • State-of-the-art water filtration system that allows 400,000 gallons of water to be filtered and recycled back into the habitat.

The next part of A Wilder Vision to open will be Hunters of Africa & Asian Predators, which will completely redesign portions of the Zoo, allowing for expanded habitats for lions, tigers, hyenas, African wild dogs, clouded leopards, cheetahs and several exotic bird species. Hunters of Africa & Asian Predators will open in 2023. Already open is The African Savanna. The final phase – Forests and Jungles – will be developed in the heart of the zoo just before visitors reach Texas Wild!

Elephant Springs

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Asian elephants and greater one-horned rhinos will explore the multiple lush green habitats, waterfalls and watering holes, including a 400,000-gallon “river.” The space will also include a floating river village, themed merchandise and additional restrooms.

The following vendors played a significant role in turning Elephant Springs from a vision into reality.

The Projects Group

Project Manager

CLR Designs

Lead Design Architect

Dunaway Associates

Landscape architect

Civil engineer

Structural engineer

Fowlkes Norman & Associates

Landscape Architects

Halbach Dietz Architects

Building architect

Summit Consultants

MEP/FS engineer

TJP Inc.

LSS designer

Longhorn Organics

LSS builder

Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

Construction manager-at-risk