Zoo hopes to change past perceptions

Zoo hopes to change past perceptions

It’s been an eventful last few years for the Topeka Zoo. But current progression may indicate a better future.

After being inspected by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in December 2009 in a critical report, the zoo received another visit Jan. 17 and is expected to be the subject of possible revocation of accreditation in mid-March.

However, the zoo, which lost its accreditation in 2001 before reacquiring it from 2003 to present, has recently received help from the Topeka City Council. According to The Topeka Capital-Journal, the council voted on Feb. 22 to build a necropsy building for the zoo, which would cost roughly $112,115. The zoo currently sends its deceased animals to be inspected at Kansas State University, due to the lack of a building that fits the requirements for a necropsy center.

The other project would replace zoo fencing to bring it to compliance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would cost roughly $170,034. The AZA will likely determine whether it will revoke the zoo’s accreditation March 20.

While these issues sit on the foreground for the zoo, it has been recently been an optimistic point for the zoo with the raising of Hope, the giraffe who was born with a hoof deformity July 11. She currently remains in the zoo and was given a positive prognosis this past October by her veterinarian.

Kate Larison, executive director, said Tuesday that Hope’s condition has continued to improve since the last public prognosis.

“Hope is doing great,” said Larison. “I saw her just today running around in her yard.”

The zoo has also been displaying a daily “Polar Ice Cap” exhibit, which is designed as a synthetic ice skating rink for visitors of the zoo. There is no chilling required due to a compound used, which also means no energy is used to run the ice rink. Through posters and educational graphics, the zoo hopes to raise awareness about environmental responsibility and the future of the polar ice caps.

Larison indicated that people have enjoyed the exhibit to this point.

“I think people have found it to be educational and fortunately, synthetic ice is a little slower, so it works for people who haven’t really skated before,” said Larison.

The exhibit is open through March 31.

A “Gary Clarke Run for the Wild” is also planned for April 16, which will feature a 5k non-competitive run/walk and a two-mile family/team stroll. Clarke was the first director of the zoo for 26 years from 1963 through 1989.

“He was just a wonderful director, so this is a way of honoring him and everything he did while he was director,” said Larison. “Even now, he’s still heavily involved with us and the zoo industry.”

It will be $10 per participant with proceeds going to the zoo for future projects, renovations and other costs. Larison said individuals, teams, and groups are all welcome, but the goal is to have 10 members in each party to accumulate at least $100, which is the preferred minimum.

Larison said participation by single individuals is also acceptable, but that it is encouraged they find friends that would be willing to help them accumulate the $100.

A kickoff for the event is planned for March 10 at 3:30 p.m. at the zoo. Clarke as well as Jim Ogle, director of WIBW and event chair, will be present. It is open to the public.

A photography contest is also underway until June 15 and is open to all ages and levels of photographers. More information can be found on the zoo’s website.