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Remote elephant center is a huge project

Millions will have to be raised to pay for the more than 200-acre facility


Metro’s recent decision to purchase land near Sandy to build a remote elephant center for the Oregon Zoo will require an assessment of the native plant life before any structures can be built.

Mike Keele, director of elephant habitat for the Oregon Zoo, said he has seen cottonwood and maple at the remote center. Those two are favorites for the hugely popular animals.

But the zoo will have to introduce some other species, once they assess the varying soil types on the more than 200-acre site. Bamboo, also a favorite, is likely to be one of the new species planted, Keele said.

Even though the design has not been started for the remote center, Keele is familiar with other centers. He said approximately 140 acres is likely to be fenced and cross fenced in some areas, which would begin with several inter-connected five-acre pens that could change size by opening gates.

“We’re looking at the flexibility of spaces that aren’t static,” he said, “but spaces that we can change to add variety. We also would be able to use empty spaces as a buffer zone between two aggressive males.”

The site also could have a couple of 40-acre fields with covered and enclosed shelters, wallows and varied terrain. In addition, more than 6,500 square feet of service buildings would be needed for feed storage, food preparation, mechanical facilities, storage and space for staff activities.

The completed facility would likely need veterinary work space and storage; a caretaker’s house; delivery area and a parking lot; service vehicle parking and storage, sand storage and compost bins; a secure double perimeter fence (one fence to keep people and wildlife out and one parallel fence to keep elephants in) with gates and screening; and a public area for donor tours and camps.

Approximately a dozen people would staff the facility when it had a full herd, and some resources would be required from the Oregon Zoo staff.

The facility would have to be built in phases as funds are secured for the project and as the need for more space increases with a growing herd.

Oregon Zoo officials are likely to consult the Oregon Zoo Foundation to plan a fundraising campaign.