WICHITA - Two female elephants currently living at the Sedgwick County zoo will be allowed to stay - and will likely get some companions in the future - after the Sedgwick County Commission voted to spend $5.3 million to build an elephant barn at the zoo in Wichita.
The commission voted Wednesday to use some of the city's reserves to build the barn as part of a proposed new $10.5 million, five-acre elephant exhibit, The Wichita Eagle reported Wednesday.
The effort comes in response to an Association of Zoos and Aquariums requirement that zoos housing female elephants have at least three elephants of mixed gender by September 2016.
The Sedgwick County Zoo currently has only two elephants, Stephanie and Cinda, and faced the prospect of having to send them away if the new exhibit was not built.
The zoo wants to bring in four more elephants and hopes to eventually have a breeding herd. The Sedgwick County Zoological Society has raised $4.3 million toward the exhibit and pledged to raise the rest if the county agreed to build the 18,500-square-foot barn.
A public campaign to raise the remaining funds will start next month.
The zoo is a public-private partnership, with the county paying most employees' salaries and for upkeep, while the zoological society funds food, supplies, utilities and other expenses.