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The Observer, July 3 

MAGIC CARDBOARD RIDE: Kids enjoy new Peabody Park.
  • MAGIC CARDBOARD RIDE: Kids enjoy new Peabody Park.

Jahari, the Little Rock Zoo's black rhinoceros, is finally going to get some satisfaction.

For the past year, the 13-year-old rhino has been making love to his Boomer Ball. His keepers now call the Boomer — an indestructible toy created with big animals in mind — “Girl Ball.”

Jahari, zoo spokesperson Susan Altrui revealed in a brief tell-all interview, is one horny rhino.

Now, Altrui says, relief is on the way, in the form of a female rhino. The two will meet in what Altrui calls a “howdy situation” — allowed to sniff and do “light touching” through bars.

Here's how a female rhino selects her mate in the wild, Altrui said: She rams him at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. That takes a running start, which won't be available in the black rhino area of the zoo. Fortunately, Jahari won't have any competition. 

There is a pair of white rhinos at the zoo, Sue and Dudley. They are constantly getting it on, Altrui says. Dudley is 40, and Sue wears him out. Here's the kicker: Sue's past her childbearing years. She just finds Dudley irresistible, and vice versa. Who knew rhinoceroses (their name translates to horny nose, of course) were so lusty?

 

The big attraction at Peabody Park, the new playground in Riverfront Park just west of the Junction Bridge, is a water spray feature, a large circular plaza whose 20-foot waterspouts shoot up in unpredictable directions and patterns.

But if it weren't for that and the space net and giant tube slide and the giant red sculpture “Together” donated by the late Jack Fleischauer, a casual visitor might not recognize the park as playground. The earth has been scooped out and piled up into natural play areas: big grassy bowls connected by tunnels.

Peabody's most daring features are the boulders. They are piled high and meant to be climbed on. Real rocks with real lichen — for real kids. The Observer was astonished. Wow, we remarked to a city employee at last week's dedication of the park. Kids could actually fall down — like we did when we were kids. Yes, the employee said, the city attorney is throwing up in a bucket right now.

It won't be exactly like a fall in the 1950s. The land surface is covered with a super bouncy material. But close enough.

That's what City Director Dean Kumpuris observed approvingly as he watched the horde of kids who'd broken through a paper wall to initiate play at the park. They were sliding on cardboard down the grassy slope, bouncing off one another, running, climbing up the rocks to get to the top again.

Over in the water, a little boy missing his front teeth, running from the waterfall that appears from underneath the new Ozark Pavilion back through the spray to his mother on the side, yelling “Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!”

Work started in 2006; labor was provided by city crews. Some bond money, $250,000 from the Peabody Hotel, private contributions and the lcity's in-kind were worth an estimated $2 million.

To come: Two more sculptures, signage and bronze ducks.

The Parks Department has figured out a way to discourage some of the overnight guests at the park from snoozing in the tunnels: Sprays of water will go off inside intermittently throughout the night. There will be round-the-clock security as well, parks people say.

Will the children come? Will they play beside the wetland created along the water feature runoff? Will they sit in the “Tree Room”? Will they work off the junk food? Build some muscle? Sprint to the Junction Bridge for a view of the river? That's the big idea.

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