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March 8, 2013

Zoo gets greener with electric cars for animals

The Knoxville Zoo has its first fleet of electric vehicles, a series of 10 Nissan Leafs that the park's animals are now able to drive.

The new automobiles have replaced 10 existing vehicles previously driven by the animals. The goal is to have the zoo's vehicle fleet be zero emission by 2020. The zoo will also add charging stations near the elephant habitat for animals to charge between trips.

Knoxville is the first city in the United States to sign a contract to buy electric cars for its animals.

"These new cars are so quiet," said one lion. "My friends and I will be able to sneak up on unsuspecting prey with relative ease. My old pickup truck was just too noisy. A gazelle could hear me from miles away. It didn't really matter because they would still freeze in the headlights. Deer are so clich├ęd that way. But this will still be more fun."

In January the Knoxville Zoo also installed a series of 196 solar panels on the roof of the elephant barn at its Stokely African Elephant Preserve habitat. The installation can produce up to 55,595 kilowatt hours of power each year and has allowed the animals to watch UT games on the big screen TV housed in the Gorilla Valley exhibit.

"I'm a huge Lady Vols fan," said Machi, 36, a gorilla who recently moved to the area from the Atlanta Zoo. "I'm so glad I can be here and watch the games. The Atlanta gorillas always used to give me grief for not supporting the Lady Bulldogs."

But many of the zoos inhabitants say they are in it strictly for the cars.

"I love a good Sunday drive," said one chimp residing in Chimp Ridge. "I just hope the red pandas can share. They love hogging the spotlight, so we'll see how they do with something like a brand new Nissan."

"Taking the KAT bus to Trader Joe's was getting old," added one of the zoo's many meerkats. "This makes getting Cookie Butter much easier. I have to say, I already hate West Knoxville traffic though. That has not been good for my blood pressure."

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