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Zoo Society hears state of Brit Spaugh Zoo
new slt zoo main
Brit Spaugh Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin shows Lucy the bearded dragon to new Zoo Society board member Melissa Hinon, Tuesday at the Great Bend Zoological Societys annual meeting. In the background are Scott Donovan, who also joined the board Tuesday, and Director of Public Lands Scott Keeler, right. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Director of Public Lands Scott Keeler said the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo may be stepping back from its goal to earn national accreditation, but it won’t reduce its standards for animal care and safety.
“Quite honestly, I’m pretty excited,” Keeler said Tuesday at the Great Bend Zoological Society’s annual meeting.
The night before, the Great Bend City Council learned that zookeeper Sara Hamlin has been named supervisor and curator of the zoo. The city is actively seeking two additional zookeepers, making a staff of four. From Keeler’s viewpoint, it’s “the strongest staff we’ve had in years.”
Some members had already heard the report to the City Council: Keeler, Hamlin and crew, along with city employees from other departments, passed a United States Department of Agriculture inspection on Nov. 4 with “no non-compliant items identified.” Compare that to 2014, when the inspectors found problems with:
• improper storage of medicine
• rusted surfaces
• inadequate environmental enhancement for the spider monkey
• bent metal and other areas for animals “not maintained in good repair”
• gaps between the lower edge of sections of the perimeter fence and the ground, and
• flies in the hedgehog enclosure.
Hamlin said Keeler’s park employees have helped the zoo staff with everything from pruning trees to catching alligators and moving them to their winter quarters.
“With Scott’s help, we’ve started to turn things around,” Hamlin said. “We’ve got some exciting things coming for 2016. ... We’ll make the zoo something to be proud of.”
She recalled some highlights of the past year:
• Spidey, possibly the spider monkey in the world, died at the age of 50. “He made it to 50,” Hamlin said. “He had a good long run and a happy life here.”
• Arctic foxes Vixie and Todd had their first kits. All eight have moved on to other facilities. “It helped our little zoo make connections all over the country,” Hamlin said. Todd was also photographed for an article in the November issue of National Geographic.
• The trumpeter swans hatched a cygnet, and that young swan has been moved to the Emporia zoo.
• The zoo obtained a second African Crested Porcupine.
• The zoo received a lemur from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. “He was an illegal pet in Colorado,” Hamlin said. “He was going to be euthanized if he didn’t find a home.” The lemur has finished his mandatory quarantine time for new animals but it not yet being exhibited. The former lemur exhibit is currently occupied by Poppy, the binturong.
• The Zoo Society raised several thousand dollars toward the future construction of a new exhibit for Poppy. She will be located near the exhibit for Sunny, the Bengal tiger, since both are Asian animals.
• The zoo’s noted Raptor Rehab program scaled back in the absence of a zoo director. But the zoo was able to release two great horned owls, four Mississippi kites, a Cooper’s hawk and a golden eagle. Four barn owls were transferred to Hutchinson, and another facility was able to rehab and release them. One great horned owl that had an injured wing and can’t go back into the wild was placed at a Pueblo, Colo., zoo.

New website, board members
Zoo Society board member Charlotte Kluza showed members the organization’s brand new website, The society is also now on Facebook and Twitter. Social media have been a great way to connect with supporters, she said. Online Zoo Society memberships are available through the website.
Members elected six board members: Karen Neuforth (returning), Wayne Henneke, Scott Donovan, Daniel Leech, Melissa Hinton and LeRoy Weathers. John Cross, treasurer and acting president, is on the board through 2016; Kluza and Sarah Shirer are on the board until 2017.