2:49pm

Wed June 5, 2013
Regional Coverage

More space to get up close with the elephants at the zoo

Visitors to the zoo in Syracuse will be able to enjoy better views of the elephants and other animals now that a new animal encounter is officially open.

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo on the city's west side dedicated the Northwest Mutual Animal Encounter on Wednesday.

The space, located near the entrance to the zoo, is the former permanent home of the zoo's Asian elephants. The elephants got a new, larger, home in 2011, so the zoo redesigned the display area for multiple animal shows. Siri, an elephant and the zoo's oldest resident, was still the main attraction at the opening.

"It’s so accessible now," said Hyla Waldren, who was there with her husband, Everitt, and daughter, Willow. "Before, they would announce [the shows] and you’d have to rush to an area in the middle of the zoo and find it and get there in time, but I feel like having it right up front is awesome."

The main addition to the old elephant home is a 100 seat amphitheater. The zoo also expanded the fence line so more people can come up to the animals after demonstrations.

"We really like the new layout," Hyla Walren added. "And the kids loved petting the elephant and seeing the birds up close. They really enjoyed that a lot."

The addition was paid for with a $1.7 million gift from Friends of the Zoo and a sponsorship from Northwest Mutual.

Here are some more of the sights from the new facility: