In 2009, the Great Plains Zoo launched the nationally recognized ZooTV as part of an innovative partnership with Sanford Health.
This relationship allows the Zoo to conduct its mission of connecting kids with animals in even bigger and better ways – through ZooTV and ZooExpress. These programs reflect a $571,000 gift by Sanford to the Zoo over five years. When most people think of the Zoo, they think about taking the kids to see amazing animals. The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History in Sioux Falls, SD is constantly thinking of how it can bring the Zoo to kids.
ZooTV provides a live feed featuring animals like giraffes and tigers to Sanford Children’s Hospital and Sanford USD Medical Center. Fifteen cameras throughout the Zoo provide patients with an opportunity to see the animals as well as get a sneak peek at some of the special behind-the-scenes work that goes on at the Zoo. The goal of this program is to bring the Zoo to kids, or adults, who may not have an opportunity to visit their Zoo. While they may not be able to see the animals in person, they still can make connections to nature. Participants take away a sense of why these animals are important, and how they fit into our world.
The partnership with Sanford Health also includes the Sanford ZooExpress. Several times a week, Zoo educators bring educational programs to the kids at Sanford Children’s Hospital. These weekly visits provide a welcome distraction for kids whose daily routines often involve needles and tests.
In addition to weekly hospital visits, the ZooExpress also rolls out a mega-vehicle decorated with kids and animals to communities within a four-hour drive of Sioux Falls. Parades, festival days and community events now include visits from bearded dragons, Burmese pythons and eastern screech owls.
In 2009, the Great Plains Zoo received a $250,000 gift from Hy-Vee to transform the former Children’s Zoo into the colorful and engaging Hy-Vee Face-to-Face Farm. This dynamic area now features five times the number of animals, goat bridges, camel rides, fun signage, and 15-foot themed 3-D archways. In 2014, Hy-Vee extended their sponsorship of the Hy-Vee Face-to-Face Farm another four years. The $100,000 gift will move forward enhancements to the Farm, including a new roof for the Barn.
The Hy-Vee Face-to-Face Farm brings kids up-close to animals with feeding and petting opportunities for San Clemente Island Goats, African Pygmy Goats, Jacob’s Sheep, Rare Breed Cattle and an Alpaca. Guests can take a ride on a camel, and watch goats clip-clop across overhead goat bridges. The area also features a giant “you-milk-her” cow which kids can milk for soapy water, and a mining sluice were guests can pan for gems and fossils.
The partnership also created Zoo Month at Hy-Vee, during which time the ZooMobile and our mascots visit each of the seven Sioux Falls stores. A routine grocery run becomes more fun when Hy-Vee customers get to meet some of our animal ambassadors like a Blue-Tongued Skink or a Hedgehog.
The month-long celebration culminates with a picnic at the Zoo, catered by Hy-Vee. In addition to a free lunch, Hy-Vee Day at the Zoo features a stilt-walker, live animal encounters, face painting, and visits from the Zoo’s mascots.
Like Walmart, the Great Plains Zoo is committed to making lives – and our community – better.
In 2010, the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History was awarded a $100,000 grant from Walmart and Sam’s Club. The contribution supports the Zoo’s Flamingo exhibit, part of its Monkeys, Magic and More project. The enhancements planned in the Monkeys, Magic and More project will enhance the guest experience, which contributes to a greater quality of life for our community.
The Zoo plans to create a stunning, new viewing opportunity for its flock of 23 Chilean Flamingos. The generous gift from Walmart and Sam’s Club will create a brand new flamingo experience, with a beautiful summer pond where the flock of flamingos will greet visitors as they enter the Zoo.
The generous gift from Walmart and Sam’s Club will help the Zoo improve its facilities, and make new, exciting enhancements to the visitor experience. In addition, it allows the Zoo to reinforce its mission of animal care, education and visitor engagement.
In 2015, a $100,000 gift from Sammons Financial, Inc. expanded the Zoo’s educational footprint across eastern South Dakota. Thanks to funding from Sammons, the ZooMobile will reach 96 poverty-level schools in 42 school districts over three school years. As part of the partnership, the Zoo also unveiled a colorful ZooMobile vehicle that will travel across the state as part of the program.
ZooMobile programs are 45-minute educational encounters led by a Zoo Educator and several animal ambassadors. Students learn about animals and their habitats, and have the opportunity to meet and get up close to learn about the Zoo’s education animals. All ZooMobile programs meet state and national science standards.
Over the last five years, the Zoo has delivered more than 1,000 ZooMobile programs. The Sammons gift increases the number of ZooMobile programs delivered by 43% over the three years. The expanded ZooMobile program will kick off in the 2015-16 school year and will travel to communities such as Wagner, Bon Homme, White Lake, Huron, and Flandreau, as well as 13 Sioux Falls schools.