From the Executive Director
||What’s in a name?
Throughout my career it has been fascinating for me to watch and be a part of the change that has occurred in my profession. Originally simple menageries of individual animals put on display for people to observe, the modern day zoo has grown to encompass exhibits depicting animals in more naturalistic environments,
rich science education programs that reach visitors of all ages, and conservation programs on the local, national, and international levels, while still being institutions that offer popular, safe family experiences that are fun.
Indeed, when we now say “zoo” we are describing an institution that is complex, rich in diversity, and supports a myriad of public programs, all with the common goal of showing our visitors the fascinating world of nature, thus fostering in them the need for its preservation for future generations.
In a very real sense, the history of Rolling Hills Zoo has mirrored the growth of the modern zoo and aquarium. Starting as a simple collection of interesting animals, we became a wildlife refuge, continued to grow and became a modern zoological organization. In recognition of this, the Board of Directors at their Annual Meeting voted unanimously to formally change our name to Rolling Hills Zoo. The Rolling Hills portion recognizes both our history and the legacy left to us by Charlie Walker and the Walker family, while the remainder of the name recognizes that we are as any other modern zoo today. We engage in public science education, significant conservation and animal welfare projects, and deliver the very best in animal care and welfare for our animals, while providing engaging, meaningful family oriented experiences that last a lifetime.
I am very proud and honored to have been chosen to help lead this marvelous institution and I look forward to working with all of you in taking the next step in the life of Rolling Hills Zoo.
RHZ Executive Director
The History of Rolling Hills Zoo
In the early 1980’s, Salina businessman Charlie Walker purchased a section of ground in western Saline County. A large barn was built to house a number of Belgian horses and Rolling Hills Ranch was born. During the early years, hundreds of schoolchildren visited the “Main Barn” each year to learn about the large draft horses.
In the late 1980’s, Charlie decided to add a few animals to the barn, such as two black bear cubs, a few llamas, and a lioness. The tours were no longer requested only by school groups. Family reunions, class reunions, and other groups were requesting tours of the Main Barn to see these incredible animals. The excitement generated by these animals convinced Charlie that the Salina community and surrounding area would benefit from having a wildlife park.
In 1995, the exotic animal portion of the ranch formally broke its ties with Rolling Hills Ranch and became a private, non-profit foundation dedicated to the conservation and propagation of rare and endangered species. The animal collection, land, and equipment were donated into the newly-formed foundation, Rolling Hills Refuge Wildlife Conservation Center, and construction of the zoo began in earnest. After five years of construction, the zoo opened to the public in the fall of 1999. When guests visit the zoo, they see the animals living in naturalistic exhibits within a beautifully landscaped, yet rural setting. Guests are able to view animals living out their lives with the dignity and respect they deserve.
In 2000, the vision was expanded to include a wildlife museum. A 64,000-square-foot building was constructed. A portion of this building was designated as a conference center that could be rented out for business meetings, receptions, or used for the zoo’s own events. The conference center held its first event in April 2002.
Construction began on the interior portion of the wildlife museum in 2003. Keeping respect of the animals firmly in mind, the museum offers guests a journey around the world while visiting seven different regions such as Africa, North America, the rain forest, and much more. The museum also offers a 2,000-square-foot traveling exhibit area, a children’s exploration room, and a domed theater. The museum opened to the public in March 2005 and has expanded the educational message of the park by exhibiting animals not found in the zoo and offering a year-round, climate controlled experience for guests.
In 2009, the park underwent an official name change to Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure. Rolling Hills Zoo is a public, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of wildlife through participation in conservation programs and by providing fun and interactive educational experiences.
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Rolling Hills Zoo
625 N. Hedville Road
Salina, KS 67401
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Rolling Hills Zoo is dedicated to the preservation of wildlife through participation in conservation programs and by providing fun and interactive educational experiences.
Gary L. Harbin, M.D.
Julie Sager Miller
Ryan Payne, M.D.
Carolyn L. Walker
Charles W. Walker
Director of Operations
Director of Development & Marketing
Sales & Events Manager
Conference Center Manager