City / County Digest

CITY / COUNTY DIGEST

October 06, 2006

Md. zoo awaiting arrival of elephants

Elephants Dolly and Ana have long reigned as a major attraction at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

In 2003, when dire financial straits at the zoo threatened to send the elephants packing, the public rallied and donations poured in. And Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. - a Republican whose party mascot happens to resemble them - forked over millions in state aid.

The big girls were saved from extinction (at the zoo anyway). Now, plans are being made for a trio of heavyweights from Philly to join them. Three female African elephants are slated to make the Maryland Zoo their new home late this spring, zoo officials announced yesterday.

Petal, 50, Kallie, 24, and Bette, 23 - who reside at the Philadelphia Zoo - will join Dolly, 30, and Ana, 32, in an effort to ramp up breeding possibilities at the zoo, an important aspect of the zoo's missions of conservation and ecology. The species has dwindled in recent years.

For about two years, efforts to artificially inseminate Dolly have failed. Zoo officials hope to one day gain a male elephant for breeding the old-fashioned way.

"It's going to be such a unique venue," raved Kerry Graves, vice president for marketing at the Maryland Zoo. "If you want to see elephants, not just one elephant, or two, but if you want to see a herd of elephants, there's not too many places in the United States that you can see that. But Baltimore ... will be that place."

Coinciding with the animals' arrival, zoo officials are planning an $11 million upgrade that will provide 6 acres of space for the elephant exhibit; expansion of the barn and the addition of another; and a quarter-mile-long walking track equipped with a wallow, a watering hole and foraging areas where the creatures can enjoy melons and pumpkins (their favorite).

Already, Graves said, zoo elephant manager Michael McClure has trekked to Philly to visit his soon-to-be charges, who are being transferred to Baltimore at no charge. Budget shortfalls at the Philadelphia Zoo are prompting the move.

"Elephants are very intelligent, very social," Graves said. "So, it's very important that he forms a relationship with the elephants before they come here."

And if the folks in Philly miss their elephants, Graves offered a solution: "We're also close enough, too, that Philadelphians can come and see their elephants anytime they want."

Harford County: Edgewood

Train station to be upgraded

The state announced yesterday $2.6 million for the construction of a new Maryland Rail Commuter Service station in Edgewood, an upgrade at a facility that has sat shuttered for more than 10 years. Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said construction would begin in the fall 2008 and take about a year. The new station will feature a ticket counter, waiting area and restrooms, Flanagan said. Harford County "is a hotbed of growth," and improving rail transit is needed to accommodate 10,000 new jobs coming to the county as a result of the federal military base realignment, he said.

Ted Shelsby

Baltimore: Fells Point

Festival to shut several streets

Several streets in Fells Point will be closed, starting today, for this weekend's 40th Fells Point Fun Festival. Starting at 5 p.m. today, the 400 and 500 blocks of S. Broadway - between Bank and Fleet streets - will be closed. Starting tomorrow, all streets west of South Wolfe Street, east of South Caroline Street and south of Aliceanna Street will be closed. All of the streets are to reopen at 6 a.m. Monday. The city's Department of Transportation said restrictions will be "aggressively and strictly enforced." Cars parked in restricted areas today will be ticketed and towed to the Fallsway impound lot; cars illegally parked tomorrow and Sunday will be taken to Boston Street, transportation officials said.

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