Nestled in the heart of Wichita, Kansas is a world-class attraction that has been a huge source of local pride since 1971. The easily walkable, beautifully laid out Sedgwick County Zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals from all over the world, including (of course), lions, and tigers, and bears — oh my!
Although it is now 42 years old, the zoo continues to upgrade its exhibits and to plan for future expansion. Wichita is my hometown and I remember many, many happy visits there with family and numerous field trips through my schools.
When I was a child, I loved seeing the elephants, giraffes, and monkeys. And I really loved the Children’s Farms area, which included a place to pet and feed often obnoxious but funny goats. As I got older, I continued visiting and was especially charmed when the large-scale Koch Orangutan and Chimpanzee Habitat opened in 1996.
When I later moved to Orlando, I missed “my” zoo. True, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is wonderful and huge. But it lacks the intimacy of a smaller zoo-only facility. Plus, it wasn’t mine.
So I was excited when two weeks ago I was finally able to schedule a return visit to the Sedgwick County Zoo after staying away for 10 years. Not only was it just as thrilling as I remembered, it has improved in major ways that led to TripAdvisor last year naming it as one of the top 10 zoos in the entire country.
First up on my trip: the Orangutan and Chimpanzee Habitat is still a highlight with inside and outside viewing locations and large roaming areas for its residents.
It’s easy to see why this exhibit is especially popular with Jane Goodall, who chose the Wichita zoo as the first observer training site for her ChimpanZoo Project back in 1988 and continues to make visits.
Next was a quick visit with Stephanie and Cinda – the same 2 elephants who’ve been there since I was a kid! And then it was over to the river otters. Frankly, I could spend hours and hours just watching these cuties swim, chase fish, and somersault through their day.
Areas that were built after I left town and completely blew me away included the Downing Gorilla Forest, which covers 8 acres…
…and the Tiger Trek. I was lucky enough to watch a couple of the Amur tigers being fed and going through enrichment exercises — which looked an awful lot like doing tricks for food!
If you ever find yourself driving through the sunflower state and through Wichita, be sure to stop by this conservation-friendly and still very thrilling zoo. It’ll definitely be worth your time!
For more information, check out the Sedgwick County Zoo’s website.