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Sunset Zoo's PupDate Blog
Sunset Zoo is hand-raising a maned wolf pup and golden Labrador puppy behind the scenes. Stay up to date with the adventures of Fin and Matty on this weekly PupDate blog!
The People Behind the Pups + Exciting News!
The original item was published from April 12, 2016 2:44 PM to April 12, 2016 2:48 PM
By Ella Casey, Assistant Zoo Director
photos courtesy of Autumn Shoemaker of
we chase the light
As you can imagine, insert two adorable pups into a world full of animal lovers and it’s a recipe for success.
A whole host of Zoo staff have been more than thrilled to help care for our growing canine pair but two folks have had an extra special role.
Meet Fin and Matty’s puppy caregivers, Christina and Kirk! The duo has been the primary staff behind the around-the-clock bottle feedings, kennel cleanings, pup enrichment, formula weaning and much more. Their work has certainly come with less sleep but if you talk to either one of them, their smiles give it away…they’re having a blast. And they’re excellent at what they do.
Christina is a Sunset Zoo Keeper and cares for the animals along the South American Trail, including the maned wolves. Her journey with the Zoo began in 1992, when she completed volunteer training as a Docent. Since then, she’s enjoyed stays in the concession stand, ticket booth and finally, as an Animal Keeper in 1997.
I’m not sure if you can tell from these photos *wink*wink*, but hand raising Fin and Matty is at the top of her favorite Sunset memories!
And she’s no rookie to the hand-raising-of-animals world. In the early 2000’s, as we were opening the Zoo’s newly-built flamingo exhibit, we flew in 20 flamingo eggs from Florida. Christina was part of the team who helped cared for the brightly-colored birds behind the scenes. They successfully hatched the eggs and raised the flock to transition into the exhibit; an endeavor that was around-the-clock and slightly squawky!
When she’s not caring for the ever-energetic Fin and Matty, she can be seen hanging out with Sunset residents like Milford the pelican; the coolest pig-like mammal, Chacoan peccaries; her feathered flamingo friends; and of course, the maned wolves, Lelah and Meek.
Kirk is our Curator of Animal Care, celebrating five years at Sunset this January. He oversees our awesome team of keeper staff and with their help, the care of the animal collection. As simple as that sounds, the reality is quite different. Managing a collection of widely diverse animal residents is always interesting and you never know what your day will bring…like a maned wolf pup!
Kirk is a Kansas kid, growing up in nearby Abilene and working for 14 years with the Walker family in Salina to establish and build – from the fields up – Rolling Hills Zoo! He’s also dabbled at directing Zoo operations in Mississippi and Wisconsin. This guy knows zoos.
While he may look tough, he’s got a big heart for all furry friends. Being able to help care for animals like Fin and Matty, and seeing them eventually grow up and have their own offspring, is one of his favorite things about his work.
Kirk is always buzzing around the Zoo, supporting the animal care team and the whole host of Zoo residents who may be in need of a little extra attention on any given day.
Best News Ever
We are beyond excited to share, you can now welcome Fin and Matty to Manhattan…IN PERSON! That’s right, last week our staff made the decision to build an outdoor kennel for the pups to enjoy the warming weather. And it just so happens to be in a spot where you can see them!
As of yesterday, when you’re walking the South American Trail, near the barn, you may hear the familiar sound of a puppy barking. That’s Matty sending you a puppy hello!
Because of their animal care needs, and the ever-changing Kansas climate, we cannot guarantee the pups will be out for every visitor. But if you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of the infamous puppy pair.
When you do visit, we ask that you wave quietly and respect the people barriers. We don’t want to startle them! Here's a few photos to brighten your day until you can see them in person.
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