Rolling Hills Zoo to open new lion enclosure Friday

Lions at Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina
Lions at Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina(Rolling Hills Zoo)
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 2:27 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Lions who have found a home at Salina’s Rolling Hills Zoo will greet visitors from the comfort of a new enclosure on Friday.

Less than nine months since it broke ground, the Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina says it is thrilled to announce that the new exhibit, Pride of the Prairie, will open on Friday, Aug. 5.

An exhibit that mimic’s the savanna grasslands of Africa, the Zoo said the native tallgrass prairies of the Sunflower State served as the inspiration for the new lion experience, which encompasses nearly 20,000 square feet.

Rolling Hills said the new exhibit will double the size of the lions’ original enclosure and includes a massive visitors cave, a new indoor habitat and additional off-exhibit housing.

From inside the immersive rocky cave, the Zoo said guests will experience face-to-face encounters with the pride from the safety of the viewing area. It said a special training window will also allow guests to be just feet away as staff safely perform daily husbandry with the animals - all part of the exemplary care given to each animal at the zoo.

The Zoo noted another exciting feature of the exhibit will be the additional housing to introduce a male to the pride. It said the building has four giant viewing windows where guests can watch the lion as it is safely introduced to the pride. In the future, this space will serve as a den for a lioness and her cubs during their first few months of life and will offer guests a “first look” at the new offspring.

Unlike any other lion habitat in Kansas, Rolling Hills said Pride of the Prairie will provide a high “cliff-like” vantage point for the lions to ascend as they keep an eye on their domain - mimicking behaviors in their native habitats.

The Zoo also indicated the habitat will ensure it continues to exceed the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ high standard of care by doubling their outdoor space.

“The support for this project is nothing short of amazing, and I’m really excited to see the Pride of the Prairie enjoyed by zoo visitors and our lions for years to come,” shared Ryan VanZant, RHZ Executive Director, on the opening of the new lion experience.

The Zoo noted that the lead gift of the new exhibit was donated by Bill and Martha Graves of the William H. Graves Family Foundation. The gift provided a one-to-one challenge to fully fund the project. Thanks to the contribution of hundreds of donors, businesses and foundations, it said the new exhibit will open Friday.

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