WICHITA, Kansas – Sedgwick County Commissioners voted 4-1 Wednesday morning to support a five-year funding agreement for Sedgwick County Zoo.
The zoo had asked for more than $30 million.
All commissioners except for Richard Ranzau supported the project.
The funding will help save the biggest attraction at the zoo which is the elephants, Cinda and Stephanie.
They both would have been shipped out by October if commissioners hadn’t supported the funding.
“We have an amount of confidence now as we go out and fundraise that we have that backing,” said Scott Och, Sedgwick County Zoological Society
“We could not raise the money without a full backing partnership five-year commitment from the county,” said Mark Reed, Sedgwick County Zoo Executive Director.
The decision didn’t come without a fight.
“As much as I support the zoo, we do have some things in our county that are higher priority,” said Richard Ranzau, Sedgwick County Commissioner.
Ranzau said items like jail expansion should be high priorities, but in the end enough commissioners saw a need in maintaining what they consider “a world-class zoo” complete with elephants.
“The elephants are not out of the woods, but it gives us the confidence to go forward that we have a partnership.”
New rules from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums require the zoo to increase the size of the elephant attraction to have at least three animals. One must be a male.
The zoo has three years to build that new elephant exhibit that would cost between $10-12 million.
Only a million dollars out of the county’s money would help with the exhibit. Most of the rest of the exhibit cost will be covered through donations.
The rest of the county’s money would cover maintenance and salaries that include nine new employees.