Science, Tech & Environment

Geo answer - Elephanthus

The Geo Quiz takes us to a city that's home to one of the oldest zoos in Europe. Back around 1859, visitors could see "a seal in a bathtub, and a turtle in a bucket."

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Nowadays the modern zoo is the pride of Denmark. It participates in a number of international conservation projects including ones in Malaysia and Brazil.

The zoo recently opened a brand new elephant house. The "elephanthus" as its called, is designed to be elephant friendly. There's a swimming pool, mud baths, sorry it's elephants only, and plenty of elephant scratching posts for those 'hard to get at' spots.

The elephanthusThe elephanthus

This sanctuary for elephants is the newest attraction in a city that looks out on the strait known as the Oresund. Don't worry the name of this Scandanavian city is easier to pronounce.

Name it if you can...

For our Geo Quiz today -- we were looking for a Scandinavian city that's got a posh new home for pachyderms.

It cost $ 50 million and covers 2 square acres. There's a giant swimming pool, mud baths, even sweeping views. The brand new luxury facility for a family of Asian elephants has just opened up in the Copenhagen Zoo. Dierdre Kennedy went to see what's happening at the zoo:

If there were a "club med" for elephants, it would be here at Denmark's national zoo. The brand new elephant enclosure almost twice the size of a football field, offers a giant swimming pool, complete with mud baths, a rolling savannah, and scattered vertical posts for rump massage.

Peter Haase, spokesman for the Copenhagen zoo, says all of the building materials were chosen with the elephants' comfort in mind:

Haase: ?We decided to, instead of have concrete or rubber stuff on the floor -- to change the floor into a sandy floor. and it's not only on the floor, we almost built up mountains of sand. they can dig in it, they can lay down and it's wonderful.?

Since moving to their new home, the seven residents have displayed more of their natural behavior in the wild -- like tossing sand on their backs, and rummaging for leafy branches and food the keepers hide around the place.

Haase: ?In the nature, animals have to struggle to get enough to eat all day long. that's exactly what we try to do here. it's enrichment for them. it's give them quality in life.?

The change seems to make the zoo's visitors feel better too.

Patron: ?It's fantastic. the conditions they had before were way too small. woman: it sounds funny to say that they looked sad, but they looked as if they were bored. i think it's more satisfying for the elephants as well as us.?

The new exhibit is five times bigger than the old one?.and for those chilly north sea nights a glass-domed elephant house designed by British architect sir Norman Foster. inside it's wood-paneled and temperature-controlled?with misting machines to help moisturize the elephants' skin. critics have praised the zoo's innovation. but there's still an ongoing controversy about whether elephants should be kept in zoos at all. recently San Francisco surrendered its remaining elephants to a sanctuary after two of them died of lingering illnesses.

Elephant expert Alan Rukroft has worked with zoos and sanctuaries around the world. he says there's really no ideal situation outside their natural habitat in Asia or Africa..

Rukroft: ?A lot of times elephants die early because they get secondary problems caused by maybe hard surfaces, and things like that. i think for me, the jury's still out on the question should elephants be in captivity. because it's not going to go away and we're trying to push the envelope all the time so to speak on better care.?

Copenhagen's Asian elephants range in ages from 2 -50. All were born here at the zoo. and with an expected life span of 70 years, most should have many cushy decades ahead of them.