The Sedgwick County Zoo is in for a big week, as the Reed Family Zambezi River Valley elephant exhibit will officially open on Friday, May 27.
“It’s absolutely an exciting time. We have brought in six African elephants from Swaziland and we’re going to open our new exhibit this month, so we have a lot of great things happening. We’re getting our herd together, they’re getting acclimated to the exhibit, it’s gonna be amazing,” Elephant Manager Lauren Ripple-McDaniel said.
The exhibit has been named for the Reed family in dedication to the Director of Sedgwick County Zoo, Mark Reed, who has devoted years to the Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit.
“Honestly, it took 16 years in the making. This process was probably the last two and a half or three years, but the Sedgwick County Zoo has been wanting to build up a state of the art elephant exhibit and …do right by elephants, so they’ve been planning for years,” Ripple-McDaniel said.
Now, all those years of hard work are paying off. Covering approximately five acres, it’s one of the largest elephant exhibits in North America right now. Seven elephants now call the Sedgwick County Zoo home, including five females and one male from Swaziland, and of course Stephanie, who has lived at the zoo for 42 years.
In order to transfer the elephants to the zoo, a team went to Swaziland, assessed the herd, and determined which of the elephants were the best fit for the zoo. The elephants were put in bomas and eventually flown in on a Boeing 747. Upon arrival, the elephants were given a health inspection and were all cleared. According to Ripple-McDaniel, the most challenging part of the transfer process was getting the elephants acclimated to the new habitat.
“I think people really realize that we’re trying to do right by elephants here in Wichita, and it really is our philosophy is to make sure it’s as natural as possible. You see mud wallows, you see the biggest biggest swimming pool the elephants have in the United States, or I think in the world Actually. But you’re seeing natural behavior and I think people are really excited to witness them [the elephants] being natural,” Ripple-McDaniel Said.
There will be a ribbon cutting for the exhibit at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 27. Come check it out!