WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – After a dramatic wait, the Sedgwick County Zoo opened its new elephant exhibit to the public Friday. The day began with a ribbon cutting at 10 a.m.
The Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley is the third largest elephant exhibit in the United States. It covers more than five acres, and those who have seen both say it is a huge improvement to the old enclosure.
“Elephants have always been my favorite animal since I was little, I mean, I’ve always really loved them. I have memories from when I was like 2 years old and going to see elephants at various zoos. So when I heard that there was a campaign to get more here at the Sedgwick County Zoo, I was really excited,” said Josh Collins, zoo attendee.
The new exhibit cost $10.6 million.
“We have a big exhibit, if you’re just on the side, they can be far away, and you don’t see them up that close. This island out here immerses you. They can be closer to you, and you get to see them and appreciate them and it puts you in the herd,” said Mark Reed, Sedgwick County Zoo Director.
It did not come without a few hurdles. Earlier this year animal rights group, Friends of Animals, filed a lawsuit against the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. The group was suing the zoo over the approval of moving 17 elephants into the U.S. to populate zoos in Wichita, Dallas and Omaha.
The Connecticut-based advocacy group argued the agency did not consider the mental and physical toll on the elephants. The lawsuit was later dropped.
For more information on the exhibit click here.