Rolling Hills Zoo to Celebrate 25th Anniversary

By Trish Svoboda

Rolling Hills Zoo is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2024. The zoo announced on its Facebook page it will commemorate its milestone with special events and activities throughout the year.

New events to be expected include SnoWild – a family-friendly indoor “snow” adventure, Silent Sundays in April, and Senior Wednesdays in September, among many others.

The journey of the zoo began with Charlie Walker, a well-known entrepreneur in Salina, who constructed the Main Barn to house his collection of Belgan draft horses in the early 1980s. Spectators took notice, especially as new additions were welcomed, including llamas, black bear cubs, and a lioness. As more visitors started to accumulate, Walker pictured something bigger.

Over time, the exotic animals portion evolved into a private, non-profit foundation dedicated to the conservation and propagation of rare and endangered species, as stated on the Zoo’s website. The animal collection, land, and equipment were donated to establish the Rolling Hills Refuge Wildlife Conservation Center, and construction of the zoo officially began. Five years later, on October 26, 1999, the zoo opened its gates to 255 visitors.

As part of the anniversary celebration, the Earl Bane Gallery will feature an exhibit chronicling the Zoo’s history, highlighting its milestones.

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