The Sedgwick County Zoo is the largest zoo in Kansas, a collection of over 2,500 animals from 500 different species. The zoo opened in 1971 after an eight-year effort of fund-raising and lobbying by the Sedgwick County Zoological Association. In the first year, the Sedgwick County Zoo featured just two exhibit areas, the Asian and the American farm exhibits. In the years since, the zoo has expanded steadily, opening a new major exhibit every few years. The most recent new offerings at the zoo are the Cessna Penguin Cove, opened in 2007, and the Plaza Beastro, a food court opened in 2008. Another new exhibit, the Slawson Family Tiger Trek, opened May 22, 2009.
The Slawson Tiger Trek is more than a tiger exhibit, though. The trek is designed as a completely immersive experience for visitors, and is home to not only two kinds of tigers but also red pandas, tapirs, cranes and storks and Asian deer. It is a world-class state-of-the-art facility, and it is the only one of its kind located in Kansas.
Other exhibits include animal environments focusing on animals that are native to North America, South America, Asia, Australia and Africa. Around the outskirts of the main continental exhibit areas, visitors can take a trek through the Jungle House to meet over 60 species of birds native to the rain forests, visit the lions or make their way through a bat cave.
Further along the path, zoo guests can wander through the reptile house and meet Komodo dragons, Chinese alligators and other fascinating reptiles and amphibians. The Sedgwick County Zoo has the distinction of being one of only two zoos in the world that has documented the ability of Komodo dragons to breed through parthenogenesis.
The original exhibits at the zoo were the American and the Asian farms. Those two farm exhibits are still an important part of the Sedgwick Zoo, along with a third farm, the African Farm, added in 1990. The farms feature domestic animals and are billed as "the Children's Farms'', but they are more than just petting zoos. Each of the farms is home to many rare and endangered heirloom species of domesticated animals. Each animal on each farm was chosen because it was developed specifically in that region or played a large part in the history of the area.
The Sedgwick County Zoo is actively engaged in education and conservation efforts. In addition to traveling zoo outreach, the Sedgwick Zoo offers "Zoo Trunks'' which feature interactive lessons and animal artifacts that can be rented by classroom teachers and homeschool families for as little as $5. The Zoo also offers special activities for groups and families that include nocturnal visits and overnight campouts for kids and families.
The Sedgwick County Zoo is open 364 days a year, closing only for the annual Zoobilee fundraiser. Hours are seasonal. Admission ranges from $6.50 to $11, with discounts available for groups. For more information about admissions and hours, contact the Sedgwick Zoo at 316-660-9453.