Tanganyika Wildlife Park

Forget We Bought A Zoo!  This family built one from the ground up.  Learn more about the fascinating origins of Tanganyika and how we built a world-class collection of animals.

Our Origin Story

It all started for Jim Fouts as a boy when his grandfather gave him a San Diego Zoo guide book. Jim became fascinated with animals at a young age and would ultimately get his start in the animal world as a keeper in1972 at the Sedgwick County Zoo (SCZ). He was hired as a night keeper at the farms overseeing chickens, goats, and cows.

Shortly after Jim had started at the SCZ, Jim dreamed of having his own collection of animals. He settled on rare doves and pheasants because they were beautiful and frankly easier to aquire than rhinos or okapis. Working at SCZ was helping him gain animal experience, but he would need to expand his network if he was going to find the birds he desired. So, he began to attend Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) conferences and bird association conferences where he met many new people.

After 5 ½ years of working at the zoo and expanding his network of professional zoo contacts, Jim chose to devote his time to breeding birds. Shortly after leaving, a colleague had mentioned an import company that needed someone with animal experience to care for animals that were being shipped from Bolivia. Jim traveled to Bolivia where he lived for two years caring for animals that were in quarantine and being prepared to ship. During that time, he learned the import process and established new sources for rare birds. 

jim fouts tanganyika wildlife park owner
Jim Fouts on Safari in Africa
sherri fouts tanganyika owner
Sherri Fouts with Lenny the Leopard Cub
matt fouts director of tanganyika
Matt Fouts, Tanganyika's Director

Having conquered South America at 28 years old, Jim set his sights on Africa. After a few successful trips to Africa, Jim and his wife, Sherri purchased USDA Quarantine Facility in California. Their initial success in Africa led to more orders from major zoos across the country. As a result, they started importing birds from all over the world. 

In just 10 years, Jim had become one of the country’s leading importers for rare birds. He was the “go to” person for most of the top zoos in the country. But he still had bigger dreams. He wanted to build a world-class breeding facility in the United States.

In 1985, they bought five acres in Goddard, built their first barn and the home of Tanganyika was established. By 1987, they built a second building for tigers. Jim acquired a pure white female named, Shubra, and a male named, Benny, who was the last live mascot for the Cincinnati Bengals football team. Two years later, Benny and Shubra had their first pair of kittens and Tanganyika established itself as a breeding facility which to this day is extremely important in the zoo world.

In 2000, they started doing guided tours through their backyard. The first version of the guided tour would take about an hour and guests would see seven species of animals. They offered giraffe feeding and lemur feeding through the fence, and that is when they realized just how much they could strengthen the connection between people and the natural world through interactive experiences.

By 2004, over 4,000 people were visiting the park despite having very few amenities and no parking lot. At that time, Jim and Sherri, along with their son, Matt, decided to expand. However, they knew for it to be successful, it would have to be a world-class facility. They took a portion of the 51 acres and constructed a zoo from the ground up. Some of you may have seen the movie We Bought A Zoo with Matt Damon, well they BUILT a zoo from the ground up!

Over the past eight years, we have grown into the third largest animal collection in Kansas, and one of the largest attractions in the state.

On August 2 of 2008 Tanganyika Wildlife Park officially opened with 15 exhibits and three interactive areas. Over the past eight years, we have grown into the third largest animal collection in Kansas, and one of the largest attractions in the state. We have over 40 exhibits featuring 10 interactive stations, over 400 animals and 37 successful breeding programs. 

Our family-owned facility right here in Goddard, KS continues to be a world leader in breeding rare and endangered species. 

The Fouts family has built one of the largest, family-owned zoos in the country from nothing. They didn’t receive any government funds or grants to build it. They did it with hard work, dedication and passion to be stewards for animals in their care and in the wild. They did it with the support of visitors like you.

See What People Are Saying About Us!

Gabrielle Isom
Gabrielle Isom
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WOW! What an unforgettable experience! My family and I came in from Kansas City to visit and it was incredible. We were there from open until close. The splash park is a wonderful addition so be sure to bring your swimsuits, sunscreen, and towels. Such a great way to cool off on a hot day. We loved the unlimited feedings option. My kids could not get enough of it! We can't wait to come back again!!
Maryann Barbon
Maryann Barbon
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I have had several people recommend visiting and I am so glad we did! There are so many opportunities for animal encounters. I am impressed with how clean the area is and how healthy and animals look. Employees stressed not bothering animals who were away/under cover and to leave them alone if they got up and walked away. I didn't notice any stress behaviors during our visit and we even saw more animals playing that we usually do at zoos. It is fairly expensive to visit so we won't come as often as we would other similar spaces but we will definitely come back again sometime. Do buy tickets online though as they are cheaper than they are at the window. We got the passes with unlimited feedings and had a great time with them.
Dawn Hastings
Dawn Hastings
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I purchased the "best day" package for our son's birthday trip & unfortunately Mother Nature didn't cooperate (the high was 39° for the day) but the staff was amazing! We got a partial refund due to most animals being inside & feedings not being done but our experiences were still a GO! The VIP lounge was a great place to warm up & offered us free hot Coco! Even though the weather was cold we still had a wonderful experience.
rosenda hanigan
rosenda hanigan
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Our family had an amazing visit, this was our first trip to this zoo. It was by far the best experience we have ever had at a zoo. We were impressed with the staff, facilities, cleanliness, exhibits and animal health. Even though we arrived later in the day the staff was so kind and patient with everyone they encountered. Staff members were everywhere to answer questions and help make the most of our visit. They were very knowledgeable about all of the animals and my kids loved how each animal had names and the staff could tell unique things about each one. Families were having fun and enjoying themselves everywhere we went. The animal exhibits were exceptional, so clean, plenty of equipment for the animals to be active. The animals were extremely well taken care of, you can definitely tell they are well loved.
Tabitha Redd
Tabitha Redd
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Worth every penny. It is a small facility, but the animals look happy and well-kept. The interactions we had with the animals will stay with us forever. The staff are also very knowledgeable and answered all the questions my little one had.
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