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Sedgwick County Zoo celebrates 50th birthday with opening of new entrance

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 3:48 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Sedgwick County Zoo on Thursday, May 27, 2021 celebrated its 50th birthday with the opening of its new entry complex, “as well as a few other announcements to commemorate its first 50 years.

Zoobilee, the zoo’s biggest fundraiser, returns Sept. 11 after taking off last year due to COViD-19. Starting June 3, the zoo is planning interactive experiences with the return of Wild Encounters.

The Zoo said is “is adding elephants to the lineup of Wildlife Encounter offerings, giving guests the opportunity to feed an elephant while chatting with a keeper about how they care for the herd at SCZ.”

There are also openings planned with new or expanded exhibits. The Slawson Family Asian Big Cat Trek will combine all Asian cats into one exhibit area. The zoo said this will more than double the square footage of the existing Tiger Trek experience, making the attraction one of the zoo’s largest exhibit areas.

“This expansion will increase the number of Amur leopards and introduce Snow leopards, providing greater opportunities for breeding and expanding the population of this species,” the zoo said.

Two more exhibits are slated to open next year, starting with Stringray Cove in April 2022. The zoo said this will be its first ever aquatic touch experience where “guests will be able to touch stingrays and small sharks, with the option to feed them as well.”

The Martha C. Buford Safari Express is set to open on Memorial Day next year.

“Electric CP Huntington train will run on 1.3 miles of track around the perimeter of the Zoo, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy views of animals never previously seen. There will be two train stations on opposite ends of the Zoo, allowing guests to get on or off at either station. Two locomotives will carry up to 80 guests per trip.”

As work continues with improvements and expansions inside the Sedgwick County Zoo, the new entrance is turning heads. On Thursday, visitors discussed improvements with the process of entering the zoo.

“Yea, being able to just get right up there, especially having other people with you, and just getting in and getting your tickets and getting through the gate,” said zoo visitor Sherrie Williams.

Those with the zoo said the new entrance is the culmination of a lot of time and effort.

“We are just thrilled to be able to give the community a brand new face to the zoo with plenty of space to gather or accommodate field trip groups or, you know, just our members finally (having) a nice, new membership office to walk into and welcome them,” said Sedgwick County Zoo Strategic Communications Director Jennica King.

Workers are also thankful for the upgrade.

“having this new building, everything is solar and wind-powered. It’s really nice,” said Sedgwick County Zoo employee Lucas Schaver. “We have so much more room to breathe and walk, even inside the new building. Everything is just so much cleaner and easier to communicate and it’s really just the improvement we needed for the zoo.”

Other upgrades include easier parking and utilization of solar power.

“We have electric car charging stations out in the parking lot under a carport that not only provides shad, but it has solar panels on top,” King said. “So those solar panels actually provide the energy to the electric vehicle charging stations. Those solar panels are also all across the top of our entry building here which help power the building itself.”

You can learn more about the Sedgwick County Zoo, its history, its 50th birthday celebration, event details and its upcoming plans on the zoo’s website.

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