Update: As of this morning, the elephant exhibit is open to the public! So, whether you've got your candy corn or your picket sign in tow, play hooky today and go spend some quality time with Billy, Jewel and Tina. Originally posted Dec. 15 at 9:50 a.m.

Back in November, two sizzlin' new female elephants from San Diego joined male Billy in L.A. to wait on the opening of the Los Angeles Zoo's $42 million Elephants of Asia exhibit.

Last Saturday, it was unveiled completely, and the three giants were home on the range at last.

Zoo officials boast that the mini prison/paradise is expensively/impressively built to accommodate eight more beasts besides. But that would make elephant-rights activists very, very angry, if their outrage up to now has been any indication.

A lawsuit filed three years ago by actor Robert Culp and real-estate agent Aaron Leider is still in the works. (Culp died in March, but the legal battle against the zoo's “animal abuse” is still alive and kickin'.)

Abuse be damned — the show must go on, right? Last night, the zoo hosted an all-out elephant-themed bash, an exclusive affair with 200 V.I.P. guests, some B-listers and a performance by Slash. The LA Daily News lays the scene wistfully:

“The 25-year-old Bill relaxed on a hill, while Tina and Jewel nuzzled next to a nearby pond.”

Hold up — Slash?! Yep. In this 2009 video devoted to Billy, the Guns N Roses metalhead reveals, “I've been an animal enthusiast my whole life.” Funny — we totally pegged him as the cat-drowning type.

Slash was super sad. “Without controlled breeding, this species will die,” he says, furrowing his brow like he was riffin'. Which we now know is a bullshit argument, because zoo officials got huffy after our last Billy the Elephant piece, in which we implied there was something sexy going on between him and the two new chicks from San Diego. “They're post-reproductive animals!” they cried.

Activist Melya Kaplan of Voice for the Animals responded to the Slash camp:

She makes a pretty good case, but we're biased toward arguments that include the L.A. City Council not wasting any more money. There's also the humane side: “Billy is already showing symptoms of mental and physical injury from his confinement in his small enclosure,” reads the offical Help Billy website.

Here's what the $42 million bought us, via the Daily News:

“On Saturday, [the elephants] were released from quarantine into a landscape of cascading waterfalls, enriching features and fallen trees stuffed with hay, yams and bananas.”

Was it worth it?

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