Hyena Habitat

By Bailey Appelhans


BELVIDERE – Summerfield Zoo held the grand opening for its new Jeannie Hayes Memorial Hyena Habitat on Saturday, Sept. 5 and Sunday, Sept 6.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Saturday with activities like trivia and coloring for children which carried over into Sunday.

“We are excited to announce that Shenzee, our spotted hyena, has a brand new habitat,” Director Rick Anderson said.

“The habitat includes a spacious indoor area and yard. The outer yard is adorned with trees to help provide shade as they grow, and a swimming hole for the hyena. The outdoor yard’s features were made possible by a donation from the family of Jeannie Hayes. Jeannie was a great supporter of the zoo and the animals that live here.”

Hayes, a news anchor on Rockford’s Channel 13, died in 2012 after a short battle with leukemia. Anderson says she often invited Summerfield animals into the studio with her during broadcasts, and Shenzee was the last animal from the zoo to make an appearance with Hayes at Channel 13.

“Jeannie had a special way with animals that allowed even Shenzee to be comfortable with her,” Anderson said. “Hyenas are known for being especially weary of strangers, but Jeannie’s quiet calm allowed for Shenzee to be comfortable on the set.”

Summerfield staff recently performed a DNA test on Shenzee, determining her as a female, and plans to look for a mate to breed and share her home with in the near future.

Summerfield Zoo is located at 3088 Flora Road in Belvidere, and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

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