Flat-pack house for elephants! Huge steel barn arrives at Noah?s Ark Zoo Farm as building picks up speed on the UK?s largest elephant habitat
A unique 20 acre elephant habitat being built this winter at Noah?s Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol has seen the arrival of a giant Ikea-like flat-pack house for elephants built specially for the zoo.
Work began on Elephant Eden in September, which is set to become the largest elephant habitat in the UK and the biggest of its kind in Europe.
Due to open in 2013, the vast new complex designed for Asian elephants includes a huge 1100 square meter heated steel-framed house which will contain deep sand yards to promote good foot health and separate areas for cow and bulls elephants.
The bespoke elephant house was prefabricated from precise decisions given to a steel-framed building specialist based in Wales at the end of the summer and began arriving by lorry in flat-pack galvanised sections on Wednesday 5th December.
Whilst comparisons can be drawn to the Swedish furniture makers Ikea, this giant flat-pack house is built for strength and formed of high tensile steel to withstand the attentions of elephants which can weight more than 3 tonnes.
Contractors will now erect the purpose-built barn on foundations excavated and laid by the zoo, including the extensive indoor and outdoor sand yards which elephants will be able to use day and night when the complex is finished.
Other features of the special elephant house include a 24hr network of CCTV and webcams to monitor elephant health and behaviour and an automated, enriched feeding system using electric winches to deliver food.
The house will be green-clad and dug half-way into the ground to be in-keeping with the sustainable vision for the new habitat and includes solar roof panels to provide renewable electricity for the complex.
Heating will be provided by biomass burners, recycling waste material into heat for both elephants and their Keepers.
Elephant Eden is designed to offer welfare improvements to elephants already living in captivity and could become home to zoo and rescue elephants from Europe which would benefit from a new start in a large, enriched environment.
The 80,000 m? complex for Asian elephants is being built as an extension to the zoo with permission within its Green Belt site and will be finished to appear visually unobtrusive yet strong enough to manage a future herd of elephants.
The zoo will begin with individual Asian elephants or a small related group and allow time for the animals and newly appointed keepers to settle in before expanding the herd in future years.
With a love of water and bathing, Asian elephants will have a deep bathing pool and a plentiful supply of water from harvesting systems built into the habitat ? rainwater will be collected from the wide roof of the elephant house and stored in reservoirs.
The new exhibit will open at Noahs Ark Zoo Farm in 2013 and includes unique public viewing areas inside the elephant house and at outdoor stations and visitor platforms with views of elephants in their fields.
More detailed graphical plans of the elephant house and enclosure will be published as visuals for the media in January.
The zoo has had a busy autumn season which included the birth of a new endangered Siamang gibbon and reindeer fawn amongst other animals.
Noah?s Ark was also ?Highly Commended? in the South West Tourism Awards announced this week for its popular Big Zoo Animal Keeper Experience, a gift day available to buy for visitors offering incredible one-on-one animal encounters.
The popular Christmas nativity plays return again this December at Noahs Ark Zoo Farm, with two different interpretations on Saturday 8th and 15th December for families to attend.
Noah?s Ark Zoo Farm can be found just outside of Bristol and only minutes from the M5 motorway, open Monday ? Saturday 10:30am ? 5:00pm from 5th February until 15th December.
For more information about the animals, entry prices and events at Noah?s Ark, visit http://www.noahsarkzoofarm.co.uk or phone 01275 852606.