The New and Improved Kansas City Zoo

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Published on: Jul. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

wall with tiles conveying heartfelt messages of conservation. More than 10,000 children in the Kansas City region participated in the artwork project, which was the final step in an educational program centered on the theme "extinction is forever."

Dr. Mark K. Wourms, director of the Kansas City Zoo, speaks with contagious enthusiasm about the mission of the zoo. "If we can funnel the excitement people feel here about the beauty and diversity of nature, then wildlife overall has a much greater chance." Wourms explains that the new Kansas City facility illustrates the next evolutionary step in the development of zoos.

That step revolves around participation by the visitors. Zoos began with a 'stamp book' mentality, leading them to collect more and more species. Animals were typically displayed in long rows of sadly cramped cages. The second evolutionary phase was a focus on public education of wildlife issues. Next, zoos concentrated on a naturalization approach to their displays, getting rid of the cage rows and giving visitors the sense of immersion in particular environments.

The new Kansas City Zoo is based on the latest evolutionary step of participation. The zoo tries to give people as many opportunities as possible to realize they can make a difference. At the zoo itself, volunteers can contribute their time in a multitude of ways, from painting fence posts to becoming docents, who share educational information with others at the zoo and in the community.

After touring various areas of the zoo, visitors funnel back through the Deramus Education Pavilion to exit the grounds. On their way out, they can visit the Sprint IMAX® theater, the first IMAX in any zoo worldwide. IMAX is a motion picture format that incorporates a screen large enough to envelop the viewer's entire field of vision. The theater features wildlife and nature films that give visitors an opportunity to experience many exciting aspects of our planet's environment.

The exit corridor of the building provides one last opportunity to catch visitors' attention and impart a final conservation message. It was a great challenge for the planners to stop people again after a long tiring day outside. The aquarium of Missouri River life provides the ideal web.

As visitors leave the zoo, this final exhibit reorients visitors to their Midwestern surroundings. They have been shown the diversity and beauty of wildlife around the world. They have also been shown how they fit into that web of life here, in their own surroundings. Wourms says that he is proud of the Conservation Department and how the Kansas City Zoo represents them.

The Department of Conservation was and continues to be a fantastic partner in this venture," Wourms says. "Our missions parallel each other in many ways. Both of us advocate smart stewardship in the use of land and wildlife resources. We want every individual to understand how they can make a difference. The environmental adage of 'Think globally, act locally' really applies here. We will be successful if we get visitors to say, 'Gosh, isn't nature wonderful, right here in our own backyard.'"

The zoo is located off 1-435 at 63rd Street, in Swope Park. For information on the Kansas City Zoo and its many exciting programs call (816) 871-5700. triangle

Summer Attractions

by Susan Tolleson, Kansas City Zoo staff

  • Koalas make big news at the Kansas City Zoo this summer. Thanks to the generosity of Kansas City Power & Light, Kansas City will be one of only 13 zoos in the country to exhibit koalas. Koalas visit May 3 through Sept. 1.
  • The Sprint IMAX® Theatre, with its 6.5-story screen, stadium seating and 12,000 watts of digital sound, provides movie audiences with a powerful, engaging film experience. New films this summer include The Living Sea, which celebrates the world's oceans, and Tropical Rainforest, which brings to life forests and the incredible treasures they contain. Call (816) 871-IMAX for more information.
  • The zoo offers some wonderful special events this summer, including "Purina Big Cat Day" on August 9, which promotes the grandeur of big cats.
  • The zoo recently brought a female black rhino from South Africa and is looking to breed her with one of the zoo's males. "Ginny" is the first Eastern black rhino to be imported from Africa to the United States in more than a decade. There are only 545 black rhinos left in the world today.
  • In 1995, the Kansas City Zoo had the second largest attendance increase of any zoo in the country. The zoo anticipates an attendance of more than 700,000 in 1997.

The zoo's internet home page is at

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