Zoo Planning New Lion Habitat

Rolling Hills Zoo has big plans for some of its big cats. The zoo is beginning an effort to construct a new lion habitat.

According to the zoo, mimicking the savanna grasslands of Africa, the native tall grass prairies of Kansas serve as the inspiration for Rolling Hills Zoo’s newest experience and lion habitat, The Pride of the Prairie.   Plans are for construction to begin this fall.

Always striving to be one of the top attractions in central Kansas, The Pride of the Prairie will provide an extraordinary experience, while also providing the highest standards of animal care.  It was Rolling Hills Zoo’s Founder, Charlie Walker, who stated, “I wanted a world-class park, and if we were going to have these animals we were going to do it right.”  For that reason, status quo has never been an option at Rolling Hills Zoo.

Wanting to do their part to ensure that Rolling Hills Zoo (RHZ) continues to thrive for the enjoyment of future generations, Bill Graves and Martha Graves Reese, of the William H. Graves Family Foundation, donated a gift of $250,000 to serve as the foundation for one-to-one matching gifts to fully fund the $500,000 Pride of the Prairie experience.

“Few animals are more iconic to, or representative of, grassland ecosystems than the African lion,” shared Ryan VanZant, RHZ Executive Director.  “At Rolling Hills Zoo we could not ask for a better species to serve as an ambassador for the decline in grassland habitats taking place worldwide.  We are excited to bring The Pride of the Prairie lion experience to life among Smoky Hills of Saline County, just west of Salina, in the very near future!”

Unlike any other lion habitats in Kansas, The Pride of the Prairie will provide a high “cliff like” vantage point for the lions to keep a watchful eye on their domain, mimicking their native savanna.   From inside the 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 wall inside the viewing cave will allow guests to watch as the lions participate in their own healthcare during daily training sessions with the keepers.

Another exciting feature of The Pride of the Prairie will be additional housing to introduce a male to the zoo’s pride.  This building will include a viewing window for guests to observe as the new lion is safely introduced to the pride (which could take several years). Down the road this space could serve as a den for a lioness and her cubs during their first few months of life, while offering a “first look” of the new cubs for guests.

The Pride of the Prairie habitat will also ensure that Rolling Hills Zoo continues to exceed the AZA’s high standard of care for African lions by doubling their outdoor space.

The fundraising campaign continues for the zoo to acquire the matching gifts needed to make The Pride of the Prairie a reality.  Donations can be made online at https://www.rollinghillszoo.org/donation or by mailing it to Rolling Hills Zoo, c/o Pride of the Prairie, 625 N. Hedville Road, Salina KS 67401.