Zoo hopes to add two tigers

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Zoo hopes to add two tigers

By: MAUNETTE LOEKS, Staff Reporter
Published: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 11:42 AM CST

The Riverside Zoological Society is hoping two new occupants will be coming to the zoo in March.

In a report to the Scottsbluff City Council Monday, Tony Kaufman, Riverside Zoological Society president, said the Riverside Zoo had been offered the chance to house two Siberian tigers by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan Program. He said the zoo had also considered housing a black bear, but the society wanted to see the current tiger exhibit continue.
The zoo currently has a Bengal tiger, but Kaufman said the tiger is close to its life expectancy and may not make it through the winter. The SSP program works with zoos to continue work to prevent extinction of species and conservation efforts.

Zoo staff and the society are recommending continuation of the tiger exhibit, believing that it will be more cost efficient, he said. Kaufman said estimates are that it will cost about $2,100 per tiger to care for a tiger, compared to $2,500 for care of the black bear.

Scottsbluff Mayor Randy Meininger asked how the society might approach care for the animals if budget problems were to continue or occur again. Kaufman said that tigers are easier to place in other zoos than black bears.

Kaufman said the zoo will be evaluating its master plan and working with city staff. After questioning from council member Fiona Libsack about expanding the petting zoo, he said that expanding the area is among its top priorities. An expanded petting zoo may be optimal for other efforts under way at the Riverside Park, including the development of a botanical garden and the Children’s University. The zoo is considering showcasing animals that are more native to the area.

“We really need to come up with a plan that fits our community,” Kaufman said.

In the near future, the Children’s University will be adjoining with the zoo in a proposed combined facility. Scottsbluff Parks and Recreation Director Perry Mader submitted an application for a $300,000 Department of Economic Development Grant to assist with construction of a 5,000 square-foot building. The building would house the front entrance to the zoo, the gift shop an education lab and the proposed Children’s University. The city and Children’s University would share revenues and costs of utilities.

“The combination of the zoo and the Children’s University is one that is ideal,” Mader said. “There is a really good match there.”

The collaboration would be good for the zoo and help the zoo to achieve one of its priorities of redoing the zoo entrance. Kaufman said the zoo society is also in the midst of fundraising for establishing a splash pad. The zoo society told the council about efforts to establish a splash pad during a report last month. It will cost approximately $250,000 to establish the splash pad. The proposed splash pad could be an asset during summer months to lessen overcrowding of the city’s two pools, Mader said last month.

The zoo society had applied for a tourism grant previously for the proposed splash pad, but was not approved. The zoo society planned to pursue the grant again. Kaufman said the zoo society planned to give another report to the council in December, updating them on fundraising efforts for the splash pad.

The City of Scottsbluff oversees the operations of the zoo, while the Riverside Zoo Society serves as a vehicle for capital improvement projects at the facility.

(Riverside Zoo is located in Scottsbluff, Nebraska)



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