SALINE COUNTY —Less than nine months since breaking ground, Rolling Hills Zoo (RHZ) is thrilled to announce the opening their new exhibit, Pride of the Prairie, on Friday, according to a media release from the park.
Mimicking the savanna grasslands of Africa, the native tall grass prairies of Kansas served as the inspiration for Rolling Hills Zoo’s new African lion experience which encompasses nearly 20,000 sq. ft. This new exhibit doubles the size of the lions’ original outdoor yard and includes a massive visitors’ cave, a new indoor habitat and additional off-exhibit housing.
From inside the immersive rocky cave guests will experience face-to-face encounters with the lion pride from the safety of the cave’s viewing area. A special training window inside the cave will allow guests to be just feet away as animal care staff safely perform daily husbandry with the lions, all part of the exemplary care given to each animal at the zoo.
Another exciting feature of The Pride of the Prairie will be additional housing to introduce a male to the zoo’s pride. This building has four giant viewing windows where guests can observe the lion as it is safely introduced to the pride. In the future this space will serve as a den for a lioness and her cubs during their first few months of life, offering guests a “first look” of the new offspring.
Unlike any other lion habitats in Kansas, The Pride of the Prairie provides a high “cliff like” vantage point for the lions to ascend as they keep a watchful eye on their domain, mimicking behaviors in their native savanna.
The new Pride of the Prairie habitat ensures that Rolling Hills Zoo continues to exceed the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ high standard of care for African lions by doubling their outdoor space.
“The support for this project is nothing short of amazing, and I’m really excited to see the Pride of the Prairie enjoyed by zoo visitors and our lions for years to come,” shared Ryan VanZant, RHZ executive director, on the opening of the new lion experience.
The lead gift for the new Pride of the Prairie exhibit was donated by Bill Graves and Martha Graves Reese of the William H. Graves Family Foundation. This gift provided a one-to-one challenge to fully fund the project. Thanks to contributions of literally hundreds of donors, businesses and foundations who stepped up to the challenge, Rolling Hills Zoo’s new Pride of the Prairie exhibit will open to the public in August.