Kansas zoo plans new big cat habitat

Funds for the felines

Published 2/23/2010 in Local News
By MONICA SPRINGER
mspringer@gctelegram.com

Plans are moving forward for construction of Cat Canyon, a project that will give Lee Richardson Zoo’s pumas, bobcats and jaguars a new home.

Friends of the Lee Richardson Zoo have raised $605,000, more than the original goal of $600,000, Mary Palmer, executive director of FOLRZ, said.

But construction isn’t starting yet. Construction costs have gone up since the original $600,000 price tag was set three years ago, Palmer said.

She said the zoo is working with an architect to determine the final price, including updated construction costs. The zoo won’t know how much money it will take to build Cat Canyon for another two months, said Kathy Sexson, director of Lee Richardson Zoo.

Now the zoo and the architect, from the Wichita firm WDM Architects, are looking at the details of the project, such as what trees will stay or go, where the walking path will be located and what kinds of signs will be posted around Cat Canyon.

Palmer and Sexson said reaching the fundraising goal of $600,000 is a milestone.
“It’s just exciting. The community supports this,” Palmer said. “It’s a big project for a free zoo.”

Cat Canyon will feature separate yards for the zoos’ jaguars, pumas and bobcats, along with a viewing building with glass windows that will allow people to view the cats.

Palmer said the animals will be housed in the second story of the viewing building.
Cat Canyon will be located where the kangaroos are now, just south of the Wild Asia exhibit.

Palmer said some of the details still being worked out include where the zoo will house the kangaroos during construction.

Palmer said Cat Canyon will offer a more natural habitat for the cats, more space in the yards, and more space in the holding pens.

The exhibit is needed because safety standards have increased significantly since the current cat exhibit was built 30 years ago, Sexson said.

In the new exhibit there will be more space for zookeepers, larger holding areas for the animals, and the project will be safer for the animals and zookeepers, Sexson said.

Palmer said Cat Canyon will offer insight into the cat’s natural habitat.

“If I were to look across a field, what would the pumas be doing?” Palmer said, adding that Cat Canyon will provide the answer to that question.

Palmer said she doesn’t know when construction might start, but that it’s expected to take no more than a year to complete once construction begins.

According to initial cost estimates provided by Lee Richardson Zoo, the zoo will spend $26,040 on the cat viewing glass, $15,516 on masonry, and $71,740 on the site construction, which includes topsoil, water lines, storm sewer, telephone, and chain-link fences.

Other costs include $33,700 in concrete costs, including the building walls and slab, in addition to other costs, such as irrigation, landscaping, and additional work on the existing “Kansas Waters” exhibit.

Some events the zoo has done to raise money for Cat Canyon include A Wild Affair, an evening of food, an auction and entertainment; Cat Tales, a play directed by Skip Mancini with a cast and crew of volunteers; and the annual Boo! at the Zoo event before Halloween.

Palmer said the zoo also has received grants for the project, and people also have donated money for the project in memory of a loved one.

The zoo will continue to raise funds for the project.

Another play directed by Mancini is in the works for the summer, Palmer said.

“It’s an amazing coming together,” Palmer said. “It’s really exciting to be so close. We need to sprint to the finish line.”

To donate to Cat Canyon, contact FOLRZ at 276-6243 or visit folrz.com.

http://www.gctelegram.com/News/Cat-Canyon-2-23-10

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at https://bigcatrescue.org

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