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Zoo News: Meet Jessie and Gilbert
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Jessie Sayre, a zookeeper at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo, holds Gilbert, a Panther Chameleon. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Two relative newcomers to the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo are Jessie Sayre, who started as a zookeeper last October, and Gilbert, a Panther Chameleon who was born last March.
Both were at the Raptor Center on Wednesday.
Sayre hails from “all over the West Coast and most recently Carson City, Nevada.” She studied psychology and biology at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
“During college, I worked at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma,” Sayre said. She worked at the front gate at the zoo and also did volunteer work at a wildlife rehabilitation center. She also did an internship working with exotic cats at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. After that, she returned to Tacoma and worked with camels.
When considering the next step in her career, Sayre saw the Great Bend zookeeper position posted online.
“I wanted to find somewhere I could learn as much as possible,” she said. “It seemed like a perfect fit because of the variety of species I will work with.”
It’s a tradition for new keepers to pose for a Zoo News photo holding a favorite zoo animal — or at least one that is available and willing to mug for the camera. Sayre posed with Gilbert, the Panther Chameleon.
According to AnimalSpot, this rainbow-colored species of chameleons is indigenous in the tropical forest areas of the Republic of Madagascar.
“The creatures change color like the other chameleons would, however in a much spectacular way.”
Gilbert certainly appears to be a colorful fellow. However, Zoo Director Sara Hamlin said he is molting and will soon show even more vibrant colors.

Elsewhere in the zoo, a new structure is going up to house five parrots. The Birds Befriended program, a decade-old partnership between the zoo and the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility, came to an end in 2017 due to funding cuts at the state level. The program allowed inmates with good behavior to care for exotic birds such as parrots and cockatoos that were former pets needing new homes. When the program ended, the zoo took back five birds.
The heated structure under construction by the city’s Park Department will eventually house Rudy, a Blue & Gold Macaw; Monte, a Sulfur Crested Cockatoo; and Amazons Gene, Gilda and Papa.
Also this week, EBY Construction Company from Wichita began moving in equipment and will soon start work on the much-anticipated expansion to the grizzly bear exhibit.

The 2018 Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo calendars went on sale this week. They have been marked down from $15 to $10 and feature photos of animals from the zoo. All proceeds from sales go toward funding a building for the alligators, Alvin and Ally. For an additional $5 the zoo staff will mail a calendar. Checks to the Great Bend Zoological Society may be mailed to P.O. Box 215, Great Bend KS 67530.