The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo will have a table at the Arts and Science Encounter Family Day, taking place this Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the Shafer Art Gallery, Barton Community College. This event will feature crafts, science activities and refreshments. Zookeeper Ashley Burdick is expected to have a program at 2:15 p.m. and then children will be able to make a birdhouse they can take home.
This program is part of the CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions Arts and Science Encounter series and Shafer Art Gallery’s current exhibit: Biodiversity in the Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen.
Sensory processing items
April is Autism Awareness Month and the zoo has become more sensory inclusive, Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin said. The zoo has purchased a kit that contains items available for anyone with a sensory processing disorder to borrow while they visit the zoo. The kit includes a weighted lap blanket, noise-canceling headphones and fidget toys. Anyone who needs to use one of the items can ask the staff for help.
“Zoos across the country are trying to be more inclusive of everyone,” Hamlin noted.
It’s taken a long time, but the male lion, King Louie, affectionately known and Luke, and the two females, Amana and Sauda, have been making a lot of progress with their introductions. On March 22 they spent more than 50 minutes actively engaging with each other, which is about triple the time they usually spend. Most days they spend a little time together, although the girls tend to stay close to the door so they can run inside.
Tuesday afternoon, zookeepers again closed off the section of the zoo the houses the lion exhibit and opened the doors so the young females could enter the yard with the male. They were armed with power washers and a high-powered hose in case they needed to separate the lions.
“This is one of our safety precautions,” Hamlin said. “He’s so excited — 400 pounds of excited.” Luke rushes the girls but he doesn’t try to bite them.
“We are so proud of them for being brave,” zoo staff posted on Facebook. “As always, we appreciate our guests’ patience with us as we work to integrate the pride.”
The lion exhibit wasn’t the only area with barriers this week. Yellow tape on the fence around the swans warns the public not to get too close. It’s mating season and all of the birds are aggressive, Hamlin warned. The swans will bite — most birds will attack people who they feel are invading their territory.
In the future, a second fence will help keep people at a safe distance.
The Great Bend Parks Department is also putting the final touches on the new parrot house and the staff is getting ready to move the parrots in.
With spring approaching, some of the Kansas State University Master Gardeners visited the zoo this week to discuss plans for decorative planting. They hope to have flowerpots planted by Mother’s Day.