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The timing of my visit to the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita was just about perfect. Their six new African elephants who came over from Swaziland in March were finally all comfy with each other and with Stephanie, the resident 45-year-old, and all could share their five-acre yard together. Here are five of seven, new matriarch Stephanie on the right.

Herd 6 web

A brand new western lowland gorilla was born to mama Barika and after two weeks in quarantine with her extended family, they were all out in the playroom together. Zoo staff were thrilled with how good a mama Barika was turning out to be. She accepted her baby to her breast right away. It’s likely she won’t let her go for the next nine or ten months. The new baby girl hasn’t been named yet, but I think weighed in somewhere between three and four pounds. Here she is with a very attentive “aunt” Kivu looking on.

Barika & Baby & Kivu web

I wore out my feet walking round and round and round all day, visiting and revisiting the animals I will paint. I went to Wichita specifically for their African elephants, black rhinos, Amur tigers and leopards. As a bonus, I also got to watch and photograph their orangutan family of three and their handsome lion couple. I am going home with enough reference materials for a years worth of paintings. So exciting!!!

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