With the theme of “Touching Hearts – Igniting Passion – Saving Wildlife,” the Rolling Hills Zoo has more than 100 species of wildlife.
Visitors to the zoo can see this variety that includes lions, giraffes, tigers, monkeys, flamingos, rhinoceroses, African cranes, a coati, an aardvark and a giant anteater, just to list a few of its many animals.
Most animals will reside at the zoo throughout their lives, dying of old age.
“We will have these chimpanzees for their lifetime,” said Linda Henderson, director of development and marketing at the zoo. “That is our commitment as a zoo is we take care of them through their lives.”
What’s new at the Rolling Hills Zoo?
The zoo is working on renovations to their lion exhibit, The Pride of the Prairie. Renovations are also underway on the interior space at the orangutan exhibit, which is currently empty. The three large windows will be covered in a few weeks with interactive, fun graphics that display information about chimpanzees and a program that is helping them from becoming extinct.
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The history of the Salina zoo
In the early 1980s, Charlie Walker, a Salina businessman, purchased land in western Saline County. He has housed his Belgian horses in a barn, starting Rolling Hills Ranch.
Walker added two black bear cubs, a few llamas and a lioness to the ranch in the late 1980s. Then in 1995, the exotic animal portion of the ranch broke its ties and became a private, non-profit foundation. The new foundation was called the Rolling Hills Refuge Wildlife Conservation Center and construction of the zoo began.
In 1999, the zoo was opened to the public. The zoo has animals live in naturalistic exhibits in a landscaped and rural setting.
In 2000, a 64,000 square-foot world-class wildlife museum was built with part of the building dedicated as a conference center and a children’s exploration room. The wildlife museum shows visitors the animal kingdoms from areas in the Far East, the Middle East, the African Plains, the Arctic Tundra, the rainforests and North America.
The museum features full-body mounts that are created in life-like poses. Walker purchased 19 semi-loads of mounts from a businessman in California. Walker built the museum to display the mounts because he wanted to teach people about animals that he did not have at the zoo, including elephants and some sub-species of animals that no longer exist.
Henderson said an interesting thing about the museum mounts is that they were all pre-formed and posed, so they had to design the exhibit around what the animals already looked like.
Sprinkled throughout the museum, realistic human animatronic figures talk about conservation stories.
“This is a world-class museum and there is no glass that separates the visitors from the displays, a unique thing that you won’t see in other natural history museums,” Henderson said.
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Who lives at the zoo?
- Big cats — Amur tigers, African lions, snow leopards and cougars.
- Primates — chimpanzees, cotton-top tamarins, and several varieties of lemurs and monkeys.
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- Mammals — giraffes, white rhinoceros, bears, an aardvark, an addax, African painted dogs and red kangaroos. Other animals include an anteater, a dromedary camel, a capybara, white-nosed coatimundis, white-tailed deer, scimitar-horned oryx, prairie dogs, a pronghorn antelope, a red-necked wallaby and a maned wolf.
- Birds — Chilean flamingos, East African crowned cranes, an ostrich, a golden eagle and a red-tailed hawk.
- Reptiles and amphibians — a Gila monster, a Grand Cayman iguana, a giant waxy tree frog, green tree python, dart frogs, an Aldabra tortoise, an African bullfrog and a Burmese python. Also at the zoo are a variety of snakes, tortoises, skinks and frogs. In addition there are millipedes and cockroaches.
- Kids Country — Heritage breeds of cows, sheep, chickens and goats.
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When to visit the zoo
Rolling Hills Zoo at 625 N. Hedville Road, six miles west of Salina, is open seven days a week. The zoo has a Wildlife Museum, on-site restaurant, pet kennel service during their visit to the zoo, stroller and scooter rentals and a picnic area. The zoo offers tram rides Friday through Sunday, through Labor Day. The hourly schedule and admission fees are at www.rollinghillszoo.org
The zoo is part of the Kansas State Department of Education’s Sunflower Summer Program where Kansas students and up to two accompanying adults can receive free admission from late May through mid-August.