A different kind of ‘Animal House’


Topeka has never been a city known for having a plethora of venues to entertain the college student population. Students have had to think creatively over the years to find activities to do in this not-so-college town. Students can only go to so many movies and bars before getting an itch for something new.
The Topeka Zoological Park, located within Gage Park, is less than three miles from campus. It’s an inexpensive solution to sitting in a dorm room. The zoo has recently been the focus of some negative media attention, but employees of the zoo want the public to appreciate what it brings to the Topeka community.
“Our Zoo has a great deal to offer the Topeka area, and I believe that we are one of the gems of the community,” said Edwina Ditmore, event coordinator for the zoo.
The zoo has been a part of the community more than 40 years. It was once referred to as “world famous,” for its rain forest and captive breeding innovation. In 2006, a 5 year, $5 million master plan for expansion was put in place to update the zoo’s facilities.
The newest exhibit at the zoo is Kansas Carnivores. It features native Kansas wildlife with two river otters and two mountain lions. This recent addition to the North American exhibits opened last fall at the north end of the zoo.
The Animal & Man building has been updated and now features an extended outdoor exhibit and pool for the zoo’s hippos.  The elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe, lemur, porcupine and crane exhibits also benefited from the building updates.
The Jungle Cats exhibit opened in 2005 and features an up-close experience with Sumatran tigers. The black leopard exhibit offers the cats use of a waterfall as well as live plants and trees.
The Friends of the Topeka Zoo sponsor the Black Bear Woods exhibit. The two-story exhibit offers a variety of angles to view the zoo’s four bears. If the bears are hidden in a blind corner of the exhibit, visitors to the zoo can navigate their way around the enclosures security cameras. A live feed of the exhibit can also be seen on the FOTZ Web site.
“We are looking forward to an exciting 2010 season here at the Topeka Zoo.  We have lots of upcoming events for people to take part in, or we invite everyone to come out and visit us on a regular day.  There is always something new and different here at the zoo,” said Ditmore.
The zoo is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with gates closing at 4:30 p.m. Admission to the zoo is $5.25 with free parking.