If you're a regular zoo visitor, you may have been wondering where the anteater has been hiding lately. Never fear! He will soon reappear. Our giant anteater, fondly named Sniffy, has been residing off exhibit in our quarantine facility, while his new barn and yard were completed. Sniffy, a South American species preferring more tropical climates, was moved to warmer quarters late last fall as the old barn could not be heated sufficiently for his needs during the winter months. His accommodations in the quarantine building allowed for him to be outdoors on milder days, so he has been living there patiently awaiting his new "digs."
The construction of a new, more modern barn began last summer, and was completed late this past spring. Once the contractors were finished with their work, zoo staff set about the business of installing indoor stall partitions, sliding and guillotine doors and the attending pulley systems for all of the animals that will be living in the new barn: alpaca, Patagonian cavies, rheas, Baird's tapir, anteater and our new maned wolves. While the inside work was progressing, the job of re-fencing the three yards of the South American Pampas exhibit began, including attaching fence lines to the new barn, disconnecting them from the old barn, and adding sections where the old building used to be.
This all took place with the tapir, rhea and cavies living mainly in the south yard, which remained intact, but they did get to play musical yards (as opposed to chairs) as work shifted from yard to yard. The alpacas, you may recall, have been on safari in our African Plains exhibit, much to the entertainment of the lions across the road. They will return home soon as well.
As a fence contractor completed various heights and configurations of fencing to meet zoo exhibit standards for these particular species, the zoo's maintenance crew followed behind, removing sod and attaching and burying fence at the bottom of the vertical fence in the new maned wolf yard and along new sections of fence in the anteater yard. The buried fence provides a barrier to discourage these two species, both of whom are well equipped and determined diggers, from burrowing out of their yards.
With the help of staff and equipment from the city street and electric departments, the old barn was disconnected from power and then razed (hurray!) and the final fence was quickly completed. Finishing touches of replacing sod over the buried fence, the addition of some new trees and some Pampas grass for the wolves, and a variety of other small but important details have about wrapped up. By the time you read this, we hope to have Garden City's favorite anteater back on display for the holiday weekend.
If you visit the zoo this weekend to welcome Sniffy back, be sure to take a gander in the yard just to the north to check out the new maned wolves. These unique and beautiful animals arrived at the end of May and have been quietly getting used to their new yard these last few weeks. They are most likely to be out in the cooler and quieter hours of early morning and later afternoon and evening. If they aren't readily apparent, be sure to check out the brush pile the keepers have built them for shade and privacy, as the two are still very shy.
A perfect opportunity for viewing the wolves and anteater would be this Sunday evening when the zoo will be open late for the Municipal Band's July 4 concert at the gazebo on our west green. The concert is scheduled for 8 p.m., so the zoo will remain open late for those wanting to enjoy the patriotic music and the city fireworks display. Our vehicle entrance gate will remain open after its normal 6:30 p.m. closing time, until 8 p.m. After 8 p.m., the Fifth Street exit gate (between the museum and Finnup Center) will be the only gate open for west green access. It is always a delightful evening and we hope you can join us. Feel free to bring lawn chairs, blankets and refreshments, and insect repellant might not be a bad idea to keep those pesky mosquitoes and chiggers at bay. For the sanity and safety of our animal collection though, please leave your fireworks and pets at home. Happy Independence Day.