DENVER, June 28 (UPI) -- The Denver Zoo says it will spend $50 million on an Asian Tropics area to house elephants and other endangered species.
Construction is to start next year, the Rocky Mountain News reported. When completed, the exhibit will have five habitat areas and room for 12 elephants.
The zoo, like others in the United States, is under pressure to improve the living conditions of its elephants or move them elsewhere. Some critics, such as Marc Bekoff, a former biology professor at the University of Colorado, say even a roomier exhibition area that mimics the elephants' home turf is not adequate because of the complex social relationships they form in the wild.
"They're big, emotional, smart animals with phenomenal memories," Bekoff said. "You just can't plop an animal here and there and form a group. I hate to say it, but the Denver Zoo doing what major zoos have decided not to do makes absolutely no sense at all."
Craig Piper, the zoo's chief executive officer, argues that zoos can help preserve the species, both directly and by giving them public exposure that will lead to more support for conservation measures.