Lucas eats out of a tire during the grand opening of the Tembo Trail at the Toledo Zoo in Toledo, Ohio.
Amy Kessinger's son Mason was so excited to see elephants Friday that he took a tumble out of his stroller.
The 3-year-old from Perrysburg was not hurt, and his excitement about the Toledo Zoo's grand opening of the Tembo Trail couldn't be diminished.
"We come here all the time and we've been here four times already this year," Ms. Kessinger said. "He fell 'cause he was trying to see."
PHOTOS: Tembo Trail at Toledo Zoo
His view of the zoo's four elephants was better than it was during any past trip. The animals' new enclosure includes a trail that -- starting next to the enclosure for the hippopotamuses -- snakes past the elephants and leads to the rhinoceroses, meerkats, and lions. It also goes past the camels, but they won't be out until June.
The Tembo Trail opening attracted hundreds of people in just the first few hours. In all, almost 4,800 people went to the zoo Friday.
Brandon Kromer of Carey, Ohio, who accompanied his son's school outing to the zoo, marveled at the size of the elephants' new enclosure and the winding trail.
"I think they did a really great job because now it is much more interactive and you can get much closer," Mr. Kromer said. "Plus, the elephants have a lot more room and things to do."
The exhibit, in which elephants Renee, Twiggy, Louie, and Lucas live, is meant to mimic the natural habitat they would have in the wild.
Anne Baker, the Toledo Zoo's outgoing executive director and chief executive officer, opened the exhibit after a ceremony with African drummers and dancers.
"We set out on Tembo Trail to provide extraordinary care for the elephants," Ms. Baker said.
The grand opening of the $15.2 million project included family activities, live entertainment, talks by zookeepers, and animal training demonstrations.
A 2006 capital improvement levy provided 80 percent of the project's funding. The remainder came from capital campaign donors, including The Andersons Inc., the Landman-Goldman Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and Jonathan Orser, in memory of his mother, Grace Ford Orser.
On the Tembo, which means "elephants" in Swahili, visitors will see large drums and tires with hay nets suspended overhead. Zookeepers can raise and lower the food sources so the elephants can retrieve the food, which provides physical activity and mental stimulation for the elephants, Ms. Baker said.
Holland, Ohio resident Harlan Whitehead gets on his toes for a better peak at the elephants during his visit to the Tembo Trail at the Toledo Zoo in Toledo, Ohio.
The exhibit opening includes events through the weekend:
Today and Sunday at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., the Toledo School for the Arts Glass City Steel performance group is to be at The Blade Plaza. At 1 p.m. both days, the TSA Afro-Caribbean Dance & Drums are to perform across from the Carnivore Cafe.
Elephant training demonstrations are to be presented today and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Tembo Trail. More details are available at the Toledo Zoo Web site, toledozoo.org.
Stephanie Grieder of Morenci, Mich., was moving among the thousands of people Friday with her 16-month-old daughter, Kylee.
"See how much room they have?" she said to her daughter, pointing at Lucas playing in the dirt and Renee eating dried grass. "And see how she's getting her food?"
Ms. Grieder said the previous viewing area didn't provide a great view of the elephants.
"It seemed like it was smaller and that the elephants were really far away," she said.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: email@example.com or 419-724-6171.