WASHINGTON - The Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington is opening an expansive new community center for elephants and hopes to begin expanding its herd.

The public opening of "Elephant Trails" on Saturday marks a major expansion for the Asian elephant exhibit. The $56 million overhaul was completed over the past seven years.

Now the three elephants can roam freely in and out of two buildings with sand floors, a wading pool, showers they can activate with a foot pedal, and other activities for socializing and playing. A larger outdoor space includes a long walking trail.

Before, the elephant house had individual stalls connected to a small yard.

The zoo hopes to eventually grow a herd of eight to 10 elephants. It's also studying ways to protect the endangered species.