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UNK announces petting zoo addition for green space

White-tailed+antelopes+will+be+the+zoos+main+attraction.+Photo+by+Shelby+Berglund+%2F+Antelope+Staff
White-tailed antelopes will be the zoo’s main attraction. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

tisthammers@lopers.unk.edu

UNK announced plans to add a petting zoo to campus earlier this week. The campus expansion is set to begin later this semester.

Faculty members think the new addition will draw in large numbers of students who choose to further their education at UNK.

“We’re expecting a 34% increase in the number of students attending UNK in the first year the petting zoo opens,” said Charles Jones, UNK project manager. “I have never seen this much excitement about a university expansion project in my 21 years on the job.”

UNK released its plan for the $26 million petting zoo project last Monday. The three-story facility will sit on the green space between Randall Hall and the Fine Arts Building. The zoo will consist of nearly 150 different species of animals, imported from 11 countries. Some of the animals include three giraffes, two ring-tailed lemurs, various pythons, four African jungle cats, and a school of clownfish.

Students majoring in animal science-related fields will be required to take a three-credit-hour zoo-keeping course in addition to their labs. Instructors believe the changes in credit requirements benefit their students in many ways. Students will be able to apply what they are learning in their science classes to the real world, and they will gain more knowledge of animals overall. 

Jones said the petting zoo groundbreaking event is set to take place on April Fools’ Day. Construction will be underway for nearly two years, as the tentative opening date of the zoo is June 2026. The zoo will be open to the public, and funds raised will go towards the animal science department. One major concern is that the petting zoo may put Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo out of business, so a collaboration may be expected in future years. 

UNK students were in shock upon hearing the news. 

“I never in a million years thought UNK would be getting its very own petting zoo,” said Kallie Smith, a sophomore majoring in elementary education. “From a future teacher perspective, this addition will be a great educational experience for kids in the area.”

Many faculty members were not happy with the news.

“I cannot believe our university is spending millions on exotic animals and a petting zoo,” said Lisa Wilson, English professor at UNK. “That money would do much more good if it was used as scholarships for our students. I think this was an irresponsible financial decision.”

The petting zoo animals serve many purposes.

“We plan to train many of the animals to be used for emotional support,” Jones said. “The interaction will be great for both the animals and the individuals visiting. We think UNK students in particular will benefit from this.”

Jones said that he plans to send out construction updates on a regular basis, as there has been so much excitement surrounding this project. 

DISCLAIMER: This story is a part of our annual April Fools’ issue, this story is not real. Happy April Fools’ Day!

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Sydney Tisthammer, Reporter
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