| DISCOVER NEBRASKA |
Riverside Discovery Center (RDC), also known as Riverside Zoo, has been a staple in the Western Nebraska Twin Cities (Scottsbluff and Gering) community since 1950. RDC began as a home for native Nebraska nuisance wildlife, such as mule deer, various raptors, mountain lions, etc… In the mid-1960s, RDC made the decision to get chimpanzees and other exotic wildlife, and, in the 1990s, became the American Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) certified.
By: Alexandra Mason
Published May 16, 2022
In 2010, the zoo added multiple features, including a heritage barn, splash pad, dino dig, and new playground features. In 2020, a grizzly bear habitat (one of the largest in AZA zoos), with a working water tower that feeds into the bear pool and provides an additional climbing structure for the bear, and a pop-up children’s museum (STEAM based activities) inside the heritage barn became the latest additions. Themes for the pop-up children’s museum change monthly, making it a great place for kids to learn through play.
The zoo has a wide variety of animals, ranging from chimpanzees, mountain lions, birds of prey, small mammals, grizzly bear, spider monkeys, various reptiles, and much more. Interactive signs allow visitors to learn about each sign. Visitors also have the opportunity to watch training demonstrations (grizzly bear and chimpanzee training demos are done on a schedule, but guests can see other animal training throughout the day) and learn about each animal’s unique story.
A zookeeper told me how “Kitsune,” Kit for short (below), the white marble fox became a resident at the facility. He was found wandering in a local family’s backyard. He was found emaciated with fleas/mites and had a metal harness digging into his fur. A mother and child brought him into the zoo looking for help. The zoo immediately took Kit in and he was able to get the treatment he needed. Now, Kit is bright, full of energy, and encouraged to dig and play. Watching how he interacts with the keepers during a training session is a treat. Kit is only one of the many remarkable stories of the animals who call the zoo their forever home.
The zoo also participates in many conservation efforts locally and globally. The first thing you see when entering is a metal 3-tier status that reads, “Quarters for Conservation,” a fun game where guests can toss a quarter through the metal animal cutouts, and whatever color it lands on the quarter goes to help that conservation effort.
The programs the zoo supports are vital grounds, Madagascar biodiversity fund, Turtle Survival Alliance, Tiger Campaign, Chimpanzee SAFE (Saving Animals for Extinction), Monarch SAFE, and Songbird SAFE. No wonder this makes Riverside Discovery Center the second largest tourist attraction in the twin cities and serves approximately 60,000 visitors annually.
About The Author:
Alexandra Mason is the Head Game Keeper at the Riverside Discovery Center in Scottsbluff, NE. She has been in the zoo field since 2008 and has a passion for bats. Alex has a bachelor’s in Zoo Science from the University of West Florida and a Masters in Biology from Miami University.