Pride of the Prairie to feature new lion habitat at Rolling Hills Zoo

(Rolling Hills Zoo)
(Rolling Hills Zoo)(WIBW)
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 12:08 PM CDT
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SALINA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Pride of the Prairie experience will feature a new lion habitat at Rolling Hills Zoo.

Rolling Hills Zoo says mimicking the savanna grasslands of Africa, the native tallgrass prairies of Kansas serve as the inspiration for its newest experience and lion habitat, Pride of the Prairie. It said plans for construction will begin in the fall of 2021.

According to the Zoo, always striving to be one of the top attractions in central Kansas, the Pride of the Prairie will provide a unique experience, while also providing the highest level of animal care. It said Founder Charlie Walker stated, “I wanted a world-class park, and if we were going to have these animals we were going to do it right.” For that reason, it said the status quo has never been an option.

Rolling Hills said the Bill Graves and Bartha Graves Reese, of the William H. Graves Family Foundation, donated a gift of $250,000 to serve as the foundation of one-to-one matching gifts to fully fund the $500,000 Pride of the Prairie experience.

“Few animals are more iconic to, or representative of, grassland ecosystems than the African lion,” shared Ryan VanZant, RHZ Executive Director. “At Rolling Hills Zoo we could not ask for a better species to serve as an ambassador for the decline in grassland habitats taking place worldwide. We are excited to bring The Pride of the Prairie lion experience to life among Smoky Hills of Saline County, just west of Salina, in the very near future!”

According to the Zoo, unlike any other lion habitat in Kansas, the Pride of the Prairie will provide a high cliff-like vantage point for lions to keep an eye on their domain, mimicking their native savanna. From inside the rocky cave, it said guests will be able to experience face-to-face encounters with the lion pride from the safety of the viewing area. It said a special training wall inside the viewing cave will allow guests to watch as the lions participate in their own healthcare during daily training sessions with keepers.

The Zoo said another exciting feature of the Pride of the Prairie will be more housing to introduce a male to its pride. It said the building will include a viewing window for guests to watch as the new lion is safely introduced to the pride, which could take several years. Down the road, it said the space could serve as a den for a lioness and her cubs during their first few months of life while offering a first look at the new cubs.

According to Rolling Hills, the Pride of the Prairie habitat will also ensure that the Zoo continues to exceed the American Zoo Association’s high standard of care for African lions by doubling their outdoor space.

The Zoo said the fundraising campaign continues for it to acquire the matching gifts needed to make the habitat a reality. It said donations can be made at by mailing it to the Rolling Hills Zoo, c/o Pride of the Prairie, 625 N. Hedville Rd., Salina, KS 67401.

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