Get Up Close With Giants of Dallas Zoo

Lions and... well, no tigers and bears... but elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, ostriches and impalas, even a pair of red river hogs ... and a couple of wart hogs.

"It's about as close to Africa as you can get and still be here in Dallas," Gregg Hudson, executive director and CEO of the zoo, said about the Dallas Zoo's new exhibit, Giants of the Savanna, which is part of the Wilds of Africa Plaza.

You can really get close to the animals themselves, from feeding lettuce to a giraffe with a 17-inch tongue to playing an educational video game to pressing the backside of a fake elephant to see what sound comes out.

Dozens of new animals from other North American zoos now roam the 11-acre, $31-million exhibit, completed in just 15 months.

"The animals can display natural behaviors," said Dr. Lynn Kramer, the zoo's deputy director of animal conservation and science. "There's a lot of activity components that they'll be able to demonstrate."

Part of the exhibit is a Land Rover, where you can sit in the driver's seat, and if you're lucky, a lion or cheetah will sit in the back. But don't worry, there is protective glass between you and the big cat.

"It's just a really magical moment for everybody when they come out," Hudson said, touting it as one of most comprehensive African exhibits in the country.

It will provide a better habitat for the animals that live there.

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