Sedgwick County Zoo

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

The Sedgwick County Zoo reopens to the public Thursday with new COVID-19-related safety precautions.

The zoo closed to visitors March 14 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in the community.

Members were the first to return during a soft opening this week. Zoo executive director Jeff Ettling says the staff has been working on a phased-in reopening plan since the first day of the shutdown.

Deborah Shaar / KMUW/File photo

The Sedgwick County Zoo will begin a phased reopening this month that it says complies with state and local guidelines.

The zoo, like many attractions, closed in March because of the pandemic. It is one of the state’s largest tourist attractions.

Phase one begins May 18 with a soft opening for members only. The zoo said in a news release the soft open will give its staff an opportunity to respond to any issues that may arise with new procedures before opening to the public.

Courtesy Sedgwick County Zoo

The Sedgwick County Zoo will implement a no smoking and vaping policy starting March 1.

For the last few decades, the zoo has offered three designated smoking areas. Now, it wants to offer a healthier environment for visitors, employees and the animals.

Jennica King, the Sedgwick County Zoo’s marketing and public relations manager, said the zoo had always planned to get rid of smoking.

It decided to act now because there are many other changes happening as part of the zoo’s new master plan.

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

The Sedgwick County Zoo will soon demolish its original main entrance building to make way for a new updated entry plaza.

Construction fences block the entrance area and new signs are posted to direct visitors to a temporary entrance and exit north of the zoo’s Cargill Learning Center.

The $10 million entry and administration complex will be the first major project in the zoo’s updated master plan.

Courtesy Connie Storrie

Connie Storrie says she will retire this month from the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit in Central Riverside Park after 36 years of service.

Storrie said she happened upon the job in 1983. Since then, she has helped transform the small, rundown zoo.

Storrie says she and her small crew constructed most of the new exhibit themselves, including all of the stonework designed to create comfortable homes for the animals.

Today’s updated exhibit is home to a badger, bobcat, turkey vulture, and an array of native Kansas animals. 

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

Staff at the Sedgwick County Zoo gathered this morning to watch as crews demolished the zoo’s second-oldest building.

Sedgwick County Zoo

The Sedgwick County Zoo could in 25 years be unrecognizable from the zoo visitors know today.

A new master plan unveiled Wednesday lays out a vision for the zoo's future, including expanded exhibits, a concert venue, an aquarium and an African savanna-themed hotel and resort.

The plan aims to take the zoo, now nearing its 50th birthday, to "the next level."

Carla Eckels / KMUW

The senior veterinarian at the Sedgwick County Zoo is hanging up his stethoscope Saturday.

Jonathan Huber

The Sedgwick County Zoo has sheep from various regions of the world, but they all share at least one thing in common: They get warm as temperatures climb into spring.

On one March Saturday, the zoo shears the sheep’s wool, while also providing necessary veterinarian examinations and vaccinations. The zoo makes a day of it, and demonstrates what happens to the wool after it’s shorn. It must be washed and dried, cleaned, brushed, and spun. KMUW’s Jonathan Huber visits the noisy spectacle in this Audio Postcard.

Courtesy Sedgwick County Zoo

A rare Amur leopard cub is in intensive care at the Sedgwick County Zoo after staff members determined its mother couldn’t care for it.