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Nënë Geese are new at the zoo
NeNe goose
Nënë geese like the one shown here are protected by a Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding program. The Great Bend zoo received two Nënë geese this week from SeaWorld San Diego.

The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo welcomed two new residents on Tuesday, Mauka and Makai, a pair of brother Nënë geese. Curator and Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin said they moved here from SeaWorld San Diego so they will spend the winter in what used to be the tiger barn because they have not had time to acclimate to Kansas weather.

“In the springtime they will move into the exhibit in North America with the Ruddy Ducks,” Hamlin said. The move was part of the American Zoological Association’s Nënë Goose Species Survival Plan breeding program. “By taking these two brothers, we have freed up space at SeaWorld so that they can breed them.”

According to Birds of North America (, Nënë is the Hawaiian name for Hawaii’s state bird. The Nënë is one of at least 11 species of waterfowl to have evolved in the Hawaiian Islands.

“Although quite adaptable in its diet and use of habitats, the Nënë nearly became extinct in the 1950s. Its subsequent rescue is a classic case study in the management of endangered species. Efforts in England and the Hawaiian Islands to propagate Nënë in captivity and release young to the wild have inspired similar projects around the world. Nonetheless, substantial additional efforts to reduce threats from predators and to enhance foraging opportunities by improving habitat conditions are needed if the Nënë is to recover fully.”

Bison exhibit

Eby Construction wrapped up work on the future bison exhibit this week. The holding pen and a new keeper kitchen for the zoo are completed, along with fencing. The City of Great Bend is responsible for the finishing touches, which include some dirt work and installing water hydrants in the area. We should have bison at the zoo in 2020.

Meanwhile, the outline of a bison can already be seen on the fence; it’s part of the Great Bend Trail of Lights - Wild Lights exhibit that will be lit the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Several holiday lights are going up now at the zoo.

Zoo Boo

October is a fun time at the zoo. Long Pumpkin Patch donated pumpkins for the animals to play with and judging from the photos on the zoo’s Facebook pages, many of them got into the Halloween spirit. For human visitors, Zoo Boo was held on October 26 after the animals went inside for the night. Approximately 2,400 people attended.