Q. Does Teton Trek involve the Zoo's land near Rainbow Lake?
A. Teton Trek only involves the four acres of land east of Northwest Passage. The 17 1/2 acres of Zoo land near Rainbow Lake has never been planned for major development. The Zoo's master plan has reserved this area for a minimal impact forest trail exhibit.
Stacey explored this question in a regrettably brief conversation with the brave Unknown Soldier whose job includes checking the Memphis Zoo's emailbox every day.
This question has also been asked by others (see our media archives in the sidebar) and the upshot is that the leaders of the Memphis Zoo have consistently stated that they don't have any immediate plans for our Enchanted Forest but will most likely use that land for a fantabulous exhibit called "Chickasaw Bluffs" with a lovely nature trail that will introduce poor Joe Schmo and his family to the wonders of the Old Forest, but in any case it's all in the early planning stages and, of course, the Memphis Zoo will start "working soon to create a new 10-year master plan" so it's all under control, nothing to see here, move along please.
(Obviously I'm just paraphrasing. The Memphis Zoo's lovely and talented spokesmodels would never use run-on sentences in their press statements.)
So, we smelled a rat.
Then we thought maybe that smell was coming from a new hippo exhibit.
But it turns out that we were dead wrong. And we're big enough to admit it right here, in front of Chuck and everybody.
What we actually smelled was a herd of elephants.
That's a link to a lengthy Memphis Flyer article from January, 2007, which we failed to notice when it was first published. (Thanks, Google!) You can read the whole thing, or you can cheat and just read the highlights:
In the long term, zoo officials hope to build a much larger elephant space near the current site of the Northwest Passage, the zoo's recent expansion project for polar bears and other arctic animals. Mammal curator Matt Thompson says they'd eventually like to add two more elephants.
"We didn't give any thought to [closing our exhibit]," according to Matt Thompson, who says the elephants are his favorite animal. "We're very proud of our program. By all accounts, our elephants appear happy and healthy. I wish we had 20 of them. I wish we had 10 acres."
The planned elephant exhibit near the Northwest Passage won't come to fruition until around 2012. No plans have been drawn up detailing just how much more room the elephants will have in the new exhibit, but it will probably exceed the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' standards: 1,800 square feet of outdoor space for one elephant and 400 square feet of indoor space. To get an idea of the size of the spaces, consider that a football field is 57,600 square feet.
Let's do that math. A minimum of 2,200 square feet times four elephants (two current, two future) equals 8,800 square feet or two-tenths of one acre. That seems like a laughably small space for four elephants, doesn't it?
That's probably because it is a laughably small space for four elephants. But in this case, we're not just talking about a metaphorical elephant in the room. We're talking about losing more of Overton Park's irreplaceable old growth forest to yet another Memphis Zoo Stealth Clearcut®, aren't we?
Y'all thought this was just an April Fool's joke, but maybe it's not so funny after all.