Education at the Zoo | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Education at the Zoo

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2008 at 8:17 AM

Here's an installment in our periodic Ask the Blog feature. An item yesterday about the Little Rock Zoo prompted a question from a reader about the status of the Zoo's education program and a long-planned veldt display. We went to Susan Altrui of the Zoo for an answer. Q&A on the jump

QUESTION FROM READER:

I'm really worried about the future of the Education Department at the zoo.  What used to be a thriving and vibrant program is just about dead.  The docents used to take critters out to classrooms and special events, and there was always somebody showing animals to the visitors.  The bird of prey program was great! "Was" being the operative word... most of the birds have been taken out of Education and moved into the main collection, and now the word is that the rest of the small animals will suffer the same fate... in other words, the "education" department will be left with zoo tours, birthday parties, and a couple of boxes of parts and pieces -- no more "up close and personal" with critters.

And remember the highly touted African Veldt that was supposed to open about 7 years ago?  What happened to it?

I wonder if your sources can get some non-Palin-like answers...

ANSWER FROM SUSAN ALTRUI, ZOO SPOKESWOMAN

Thanks for passing this along. We hired a new director of education last year that is working to revamp the Education Department, so it’s true that the Education Department hasn’t been as noticeable as in times past. We still do the Zoo to You program where we take animals to classrooms and special events and we also still have the bird of prey program. The Zoo to You program will be at World Fest coming up soon.  We’ve only taken one bird out of the Education Department and that was one of our eagles that was not an easy animal to handle. The eagles are the heaviest and most difficult of all birds to handle and the one we relocated to a permanent exhibit is now living with another injured bird and is doing great. 

The veldt is planned to open in the next few months. It’s taken us a long time to complete this project because of delays in getting funds from the federal government for the grant we received to build the exhibit along with the fact that we went through several contractors to build the exhibit’s water feature correctly. However, if you visit the Zoo, you can now walk on the path where the veldt is and see that it is nearly complete. The water feature is finally finished and we just finished laying all the sod. We will start animal introductions for this mixed-species exhibit very soon where we rotate different species on the veldt to get them used to the new environment before we introduce them all in the same area. The sidewalk and overlook for the veldt are finished as well as the landscaping. It’s one of the nicer sidewalks in the Zoo!

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