Friday evening cooled down, and the David Traylor Zoo of Emporia came to life as animals felt more comfortable and families streamed into the gates for the 14th Annual Stroll and Show.
Zoo Director Lisa Keith said she enjoys the social aspect of this event along with the opportunity to teach families the importance of wildlife conservation and what people can do to help.
There were stations around the zoo with educational games, such as providing fun facts about endangered species.
Zoo Intern Amy Johnson stationed a booth where she taught children some different kinds of animal sounds. She is working in the Education Center and learning how to train and handle the animals. She helped get the arts and crafts together for Stroll and Show. She is currently a sophomore at Emporia State University, majoring in biology with a concentration in zoology.
“This is my first big event, so I think it’s really exciting to be around the environment and teaching kids and answering questions and working with Emporia,” Johnson said. “They’ve been super supportive about me being an intern and showing me what it’s like to work in a community like this. “
Keith said they just welcomed several ring-tailed lemurs and five baby hedgehogs, along with many baby prairie dogs. They also put great effort into the plants around the zoo, including a section of wildflowers in place as part of the pollination route of monarch butterflies on their way to Mexico. People can check out the tagging process online at Monarch Watch.
Another conservation effort they participate in is collecting rainwater to water the zoo plants.
Education Coordinator Michelle Sagers said they chose to show the film, "The Jungle Book," because of its conservation lessons.
“If the kids can connect to a character,” Sagers said, ”they’re going to be more likely to want to conserve wildlife in their natural habitats.”
While many children said the movie and snacks were their favorite parts of the event, the nature and the animals are 18-year-old Emporian Lauren Gulick’s favorite part.
“Children get their faces away from the phones,” she said. “They get to experience nature.”
“I saw a little boy with his binoculars that he made (at the event), looking at our flowers, and I think it was really fun to see [the kids] connecting to something like a flower in that way,” Sagers said.
She said the zoo is all about getting individuals to connect with nature.
Allison Stithem,17, is the daughter of David Traylor Zoo staff member Pam Stithem. Allison was proud of the work Pam and her coworkers do at the zoo.
“The zoo workers do a lot of hard work to take care of the animals and their exhibits, make sure they get the right food in their diets,” Allison Stithem said, “and the maintenance guys keep the zoo nice and clean. The whole zoo staff did an amazing job to make the whole zoo look amazing.”
June is National Zoo Month, and the David Traylor Zoo of Emporia is fully embracing participation. Emporians can look forward to their annual open house the fourth Sunday of the month, where the staff opens up the behind-the-scenes areas of the zoo.
The Education Center classroom is open 1 - 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
David Traylor Zoo of Emporia staff said events like Stroll and Show would not be possible without the help of sponsors and zoo docents.
“We hope to do this for many more years to come,” Sagers said.