The “best little zoo in the west” will open the doors for its 2019 season early Saturday morning.

The Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park has more than 300 animals, many of them from outside North America, from 123 different species, dozens of which are protected by the Species Survival Plan. Last year, more than 145,000 people passed through the zoo while it was open between April and October.

The marquee species at the zoo will be on display as soon as the zoo opens. The tropical bird and some reptile species won’t be able to stay outside until nighttime temperatures rise, which Education Curator Sunny Katseanes guessed would be closer to Memorial Day.

The biggest addition to the zoo since it was last open is the William J. Maeck Education Center. The facility, which opened in February, cost around $1 million to build and has already been used to hold winter zoo classes and city events. Katseanes said the zoo has begun scheduling events for the rest of the summer and is working to bring in guest presentations to the center.

“We have never had this much space for education before,” she said.

Among the animals, the newest addition to the Idaho Falls Zoo arrived less than a week ago. Ayana the Plains zebra was born Sunday but is already walking around her exhibit. The newborn has attracted the attention of the lions on the other side of the sidewalk, forcing the zoo to put up a tarp blocking their view, and she should be ready to make her public debut if the weather stays nice.

Another change to the zoo during its off-season that has gotten some attention is the penguin cams. The live 24/7 feed of the dozen or so endangered African penguins has been viewed hundreds of times since it was launched in November.

“We’ve gotten a lot of comments, a lot of people asking which penguin is named what. They have a following now, and it’s been pretty fun,” Katseanes said.

Idaho Falls Zoo opens for the 2019 season at 9 a.m. Saturday and will be open daily until 5 p.m. for the rest of the season. Tickets cost $4.50 for children between the ages of four and 12 and $7.50 for adults.

Contact Brennen with news tips at 208-542-6711.

Kauffman reports on health care and city events for the Post Register.

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