The City of Great Bend website has two job openings listed at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo — for a zookeeper and for a part-time helper at the main building, the Raptor Center. The positions were held by Zookeeper Stacie Hayes, who is moving to Texas, and Gabby Hildalgo, a greeter at the Raptor Center, who plans to become a stay-at-home mom.
But so far there is no job opening listed for a zoo director, a curator or a part-time education director. Friday will be the last day for Nicole Benz, the person who has held all three of those positions since the first of the year.
Because the zoo is now short-handed, Benz said the extended hours and daily educational programs that were offered this summer have been suspended. The zoo is still open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and admission is free.
The zoo had been staying open until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays this summer, but Benz said the staff hadn’t seen the increased attendance they hoped for. “The most we had was 12 people,” she said.
The Great Bend Zoological Society’s board of directors said goodbye to outgoing zoo staff on Wednesday. Members were sad about losing key people, but remained upbeat about the future of the zoo.
Board President Dennis Neeland said he recently had family members from another state visit Great Bend, and they loved the zoo. People are excited about newer animals, such as Poppy, the binturong.
Board member Charlotte Kluza recalled how impressed “Jungle Jack” Hanna was when he visited the zoo last October. It’s a gem in the community, she said.
At the time, Hanna said, “I can count on one hand the number of free zoos in the United States.”
Zoo friends are also looking forward to “Wine in the Wild,” an evening fundraiser set for Sept. 26 at the zoo. Tickets are on sale now for $30 each or $50 per couple, and can be purchased at Nex-Tech, 3705 10th St. in Great Bend, or on the website www.nex-tech.com/wild.