When the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans received a generous donation from a New York real estate developer, officials used the gift to create an expanded, themed habitat for its prized Asian elephants, Panya and Jean. Upgraded amenities for the animals included shade trees, a shallow splash pool, a full submersion pool and a new elephant barn, but Audubon Zoo wanted to enhance the visitor experience as well.
They planned to add a covered pavilion, a boardwalk, and various displays and activities to educate their guests about Asian elephants, conservation efforts and Indian culture. After searching for the right partner, zoo officials chose Solomon Group to provide thematic exhibit fabrication, scenic decor and installation services.
Central to the Asian Elephant exhibit is the new covered pavilion, which offers guests an elevated, comfortable view of the animals as well as a fully themed exhibit space. Visitors walk under authentic scenic decor hung overhead, including sari silk tapestries from India and umbrellas imported from Bali. There are also extensive wall graphics, a custom-fabricated education desk, and interactive game kiosks built and integrated by our team. But our favorite display piece in the pavilion has also become popular among the zoo’s visitors.
Our fabrication team created a three-dimensional, life-sized replica of an Asian elephant that stands 9-feet tall and was hand-carved from giant blocks of expanded polystyrene foam. Zoo officials arranged for our team members to enter the paddock and pet Panya and Jean so that we could effectively reproduce the feel of their skin on the replica. The hands-on piece includes hatches that reveal models of an elephant’s heart and small intestine for children to see. There are also push pads on its skin that trigger sound effects, including an elephant trumpeting as well as unmistakable bodily noise that the kids find hilarious.
Additionally, Solomon Group custom-fabricated graphic stands, benches, scenic pieces and displays which were finished to look like stone ruins. And our Graphics department sewed, threaded with rope, and installed over 100 lengths of fabric Tibetan prayer flags that hang overhead throughout the zoo’s Asian Domain.
On April 26, 2016, the Asian Elephant Exhibit opened to the public at Audubon Zoo. Solomon Group is tremendously proud to have lent its signature magic to this new, themed exhibit at one of the Gulf South’s premier family attractions.