3/25/2006 HOUSTON-- The Houston Zoo's Asian elephant trio of Methai, Shanti, and Thai are about to get more room to roam. The expansion of the elephant yard is scheduled to start in late fall 2006. It is part of an extensive $100 million Houston Zoo renovation intended to improve the profile of the 84-year old zoo

Elephants at the Houston Zoo will benefit greatly from the expansion.

Their extended space will come with new barns, and additional pool, and several observation areas that will allow more intimate public viewing of their habitat. It will also boo the elephant space to slightly more than 3 acres, giving the zoo space to grow its elephant heard to at least six animals.

A number of zoos nationwide are eliminating their elephant displays because of growing concerns about how to humanely keep the giant mammals in captivity. Facilities electing to continue to display elephants are investing million to revamp aging, cramped exhibits to include more space for exercise, larger herd, and more natural conditions. In 2003, the American Zoo & Aquarium Association formed new standards related to elephant exhibits that called for a minimum outdoor space of 1,800 square feet of space for one elephant and 900 square feet for each additional elephant. The new standards take effect May 1.

Expanding the elephant exhibit also will cause a domino effect on other exhibits at the Houston Zoo says officials. The giraffes will be moved to a location near the children's zoo and the Texas wetlands exhibit that includes alligators, fish and turtles will be eliminated. The manned wolves and cinereous vulture exhibits also will be dropped, but the animals likely will remain the the zoo in another location.

(Contributed by Salatheia Bryant)