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Denver Zoo gets ready for "green weenies" by breaking ground on an exhibit of elephantine proportions

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The elephants are coming! The big, giant, hulking male elephants are coming. To Denver, that is.

The Denver Zoo broke ground today on Asian Tropics -- a ten-acre, $50 million partially publicly funded exhibit that could one day be home to the largest herd of Asian bull elephants in the country. It's a tall (and smelly) order, as described in the Westword feature ""Caution: A Herd of Bull Elephants is Coming to the Denver Zoo."

Not many zoos (including Denver's) currently have male elephants -- partly because they're bigger and stronger than the ladies and therefore often tougher to handle and house. They also go through a hormonal phase called "musth," during which they leak raw testosterone from slits on their faces, dribble urine and get very, uh, aroused. Their penises protrude and grow algae, a condition known as "green weenie."

But if North American zoos want to breed the endangered Asian elephant (which they do), they'll need boys to do it -- a reality that the folks at the Denver Zoo have embraced by agreeing to build an exhibit capable of housing up to eight bulls.

At a groundbreaking ceremony this morning, zoo president Craig Piper touted Asian Tropics' elephant conservation goals and environment-friendly design. Plans call for the exhibit to run on animal waste and human trash by way of a biomass gasification system. (For more on using poop to make energy, read Westword's ""Poo Power at the Denver Zoo.")

Mayor John Hickenlooper, who was on hand to witness the snowy event, lauded the exhibit -- which will also house Malayan tapirs, Indian rhinos and other species -- for bringing much-needed jobs to Denver. "Today is the culmination of years of hard work that will bring jobs to the area, integrate green initiatives and, of course, support wildlife," Hickenlooper said, according to a press release.

Asian Tropics should take two years to complete, but the zoo will stay open during construction and visitors will still be able to see Mimi and Dolly, the zoo's resident ladies. It's anybody's guess how they feel about the news that they'll soon have new (single) roommates, but I'd bet they're mighty excited.

Did somebody say "green weenie"? Ow!

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