Two koalas are piquing interest at the Kansas City Zoo.
Attractions like the Sunset Safaris and Sprint IMAX Theatre help draw crowds to the Kansas City Zoo, located in Swope Park in Kansas City, Mo.
The 65-foot by 85-foot screen of the IMAX Theatre alone has attracted plenty of attention -- and crowds.
"The picture quality and sound are amazing," said Denise Rendina, events and promotions manager at the zoo. "You experience nature, not just observe."
Keep 'em coming
The Kansas City Zoo, the 10th largest in the country, was established in 1909. It houses 1,500 animals of 320 species.
Rendina said attendance was at 280,000 in 1992, but attendance boomed after an Africa exhibit opened in June 1995.
Last year, 680,000 people attended the zoo and attendance is already up 33 percent in the first three weeks of this fiscal year, which began May 1, Rendina said. This season's growth is due in part to two new residents at the zoo.
Two koalas, named Mugana and Coolongala, are on a loan from the San Diego Zoo and will be in Kansas City until Sept. 1.
The marsupials eat eucalyptus leaves that are shipped in from Florida twice a week because they must be fresh. The animals eat 1 to 2 pounds of leaves a day and must rest 18 hours a day.
The Koala Junction exhibit is in the Cats And More area of the zoo. A donation from KCP&L is making the visit possible.
Patrons find many reasons to enjoy the zoo.
"I liked how everything was out in the open," said Crystal Thomas of Leavenworth. "The Australian part was the best part because you could walk up and see a kangaroo instead of a bunch of cages."
Tracie Miller, Lawrence, visited the zoo about two years ago.
"When I think about the zoo, I think about the apes," Miller said. "Probably because of how crazy they are."
Miller is looking forward to a planned trip to the zoo this month.
"I love the zoo," Miller said. "When we were kids, people went to the zoo all the time. I think it's great entertainment and so educational. It has such an impact on kids."
Zoo patrons can enjoy the animals on a sunset safari from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays with a regular zoo admission fee.
Other attractions at the Kansas City Zoo include:
- Okavango Elephant Sanctuary: a naturalistic view of an elephant's habitat. The zoo also collects semen from the African bull elephant and sends specimens to zoos across the country for artificial insemination.
- Australia exhibit: features free-roaming kangaroo and emu, camel rides and a sheep station. A 40-foot Aboriginal mural is also found in the $3 million display.
- Farmland in the U.S.A. and the International Festival feature domesticated animals from around the world and examine the relationship between humans and animals.
- Africa exhibits: a 17-acre plain brings antelopes, zebras and giraffes into their natural habitat, while lions, cheetahs, black rhinos and hippos surround them in separate enclosures. The Zaire exhibit features lowland gorillas, leopards and monkeys.
The zoo completed its $71 million expansion in December 1995 with The Deramus Education Pavilion and Sprint IMAX Theatre, which, officials say, is the first in a zoo. The pavilion also houses a children's conservation tile wall, an 8,000-gallon aquarium, offices, the zoo's education department and a community education center.
"I think the zoo is a wonderful place for families to interact and see diverse parts of the world," Rendina said.
Admission to the Kansas City Zoo is $5 for visitors 12 and older, $2.50 for visitors 3-11 and free for children under 3. Parking is $2, and admission is $1 on Tuesdays. For more information, call 816-871-5858.
Those interested in becoming Friends of the Zoo can call 816-871-5800.