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Toyota Elephant Passage: Denver Zoo's New Asian-Tropics Themed Exhibit Opens Today (PHOTOS)

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Denver Zoo elephant Bodhi takes a walk in the zoo's new Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit opening June 1, 2012.
Denver Zoo elephant Bodhi takes a walk in the zoo's new Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit opening June 1, 2012.

After nine years of planning and development, Denver Zoo's eagerly awaited opening of their new Asian-tropic themed elephant exhibit is finally here!

And after nearly a decade of anticipation, zoo officials are expecting a very large crowd to gaze in awe at the two new elephant stars -- Bodhi, 8, and Groucho, 41 -- who join elephant zoo residents and favorites -- Dolly, 47 and Mimi, 52 -- along with a host of other animals today at the $50 million dollar Toyota Elephant Passage grand opening.

The crowds are expected to be quite large so for the first time in zoo history they are offering timed reservations for guests of the exhibit -- rolling entry, every 15 minutes, beginning at 9:15 a.m. and on-going through 4 p.m. today, according to The Denver Zoo website.

But, once guests enter the exhibit, they can explore for as long as they like.

The Denver Post reports that during the peak visiting season, there are roughly 7,500 visitors a day. But the zoo believes those numbers could be closer to 8,000-10,000 daily now that the Asian elephant exhibit has opened to the public.

Denver Zoo President and CEO Craig Piper had nothing but gratitude to share in a statement about the opening of the zoo's most ambitious project to date, "This project would not be possible without the leadership and commitment of our board of trustees. They personally made significant contributions and led the effort to secure more than 3,000 gifts for the project from business and foundation partners, members, volunteers, staff, children and the community as a whole, helping us exceed our $50 million campaign goal," Piper said. "We are very fortunate to live in a community where so many people share our vision for conserving wildlife and ecosystems."

The Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit is free with the price of admission, 7News reports, but reservations are required to ensure guests gain entry to see the 10 acre complex featuring six expansive outdoor yards, three animal crossings, and more than 1.1 million gallons of water for the exhibit animals to enjoy.

The exhibit's grand vision does not end with the size of the complex or beauty of its animals -- The Toyota Elephant Passage recently received LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the entire site and all of its buildings. But the construction isn't the only forward-thinking quality of this exhibit, the zoo is also launching a new new waste-to-energy system, designed by three full-time zoo staffers, that will convert 90 percent of the zoo's total waste stream -- from both animal residents and human guests -- into clean energy.

The zoo expects the sustainable energy system to eliminate 1.5 million pounds of trash that currently goes into landfills annually

Called gasification, this alternative energy source does exactly what it sounds like it does -- animal droppings and human trash are converted into pellets and those pellets are then turned into energy. The zoo showcased a working version of the gasification system in their poo-powered, motorized rickshaw which drove from Colorado to California back in March. See pictures of the poo-powered tuk tuk here.

The grand opening begins today and goes through August 19. Access to the exhibit is included with a yearly membership or general admission ticket. Zoo ticket prices below:

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

Reservations can be made in advance online at zoo's website, or at the zoo on the day of visit, but due to the expected large turnout, it is highly recommended that guests make online reservations in advance.

For more information on timed entry reservations, parking and what to expect from the new exhibit, visit The Denver Zoo's Elephant Passage timed ticket FAQ page.

LOOK: Images, video from the new Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit at The Denver Zoo

Also on The Huffington Post

Sneak Peek At The Denver Zoo's New Toyota Elephant Passage Exhibit
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