Pachyderms Pack Up

Eight life-size replicas of extinct creatures were packed up for a road trip to San Diego Monday.   It’s a journey that’s meant to drum up excitement as the San Diego Zoo prepares to open the largest exhibit created in its history.

The sculptures of mammoths, prehistoric birds and a saber-toothed cat are traveling more than 2,000 miles from Wausau, Wisconsin, for the about-to-open “Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey.”

The family of mammoths includes Dad, who weighs 10,000 pounds.  There’s also a Ranchipur (who weighs 12,500 pounds), a Jefferson’s ground sloth, American lion, saber-toothed cat, Daggett’s eagle and Merriam’s teratorn.  The statues will be lifted by forklift onto flatbed trucks for their journey.

“This will be an exhibit of mammoth proportions!” said Rick Schwartz, San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey ambassador. “These new sculptures will allow Zoo guests to compare the animals of the past with those of today, while also learning how to save the animals of today from suffering the fate of their ancestors.”

A company called National Rock and Sculpture Inc. worked with zoo researchers to create the sculptures that began as rebar frames.  Fiberglass-reinforced concrete filled out the form before more concrete was applied and the creatures were hand-sculpted.  They used more than 25 gallons of acrylic paint to finish them off.

On April 6, crane operators lifted the mammoths and saber tooth tigers, each made a thin shell of concrete, and placed them on flat bed trucks.

The 7.5-acre, $45 million Elephant Odyssey debuts May 23 and will feature the Asian elephant, today’s relatives of the Columbian mammoth that wandered through San Diego thousands of years ago.

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