As a mild winter bolstered attendance this year at the Sedgwick County Zoo, anticipation was off the charts. The wait officially ends with Friday’s 10 a.m. grand opening of the Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit, which gives area families not just one or two elephants to know and love but seven.
Six arrived in March from the southern African nation of Swaziland, where they had been vulnerable to poaching and drought. They joined 44-year-old Stephanie, who had been the zoo’s lone elephant since Cinda’s death in 2014.
And because the whole idea of building the nation’s third largest exhibit of elephants was to enable breeding as well as conservation, their number should grow.
Zoo director Mark Reed told the Sedgwick County Commission last week that the newcomers had been fearless, taking to the new facility and its “magic doors” and automatic waters within 48 hours and gaining several hundred pounds each.
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Reed also said that Titan, the lone male, is “showing some early indications of what it’s all about.... We know that he has the right instincts and (is) showing the right behaviors for his age, so we expect great things out of him.”
This week offered an idea of what success would look like, with the release of adorable video of a male elephant calf born May 14 at the Dallas Zoo. His 14-year-old mom had been among the 17 total imported from Swaziland in the collaboration with the Sedgwick County Zoo and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.
Gratitude is due the hundreds of donors to the $10.6 million fundraising campaign, and to Sedgwick County for contributing $5.3 million for the elephant barn in addition to its generous ongoing support to the zoo.
And congratulations to the Sedgwick County Zoological Society on this latest enhancement of the state’s top outdoor family tourist attraction.