Tanganyika Wildlife Park bills itself as a “wildly different experience” – but what exactly does that mean? Maybe the best way to explain it is to let one of our local travel writers explain her experience at the park.

Meeting Chewbacca the Sloth

Anytime my husband and I travel, we’re always looking for ways to safely and humanely interact with animals. Sometimes, though, you forget to look for these opportunities right where you live!

A travel writer feeds Chewbacca the sloth while he hangs upside down at Tanganyika Wildlife Park near WichitaLast fall, my husband gifted me a “Sloth Behind the Scenes Experience” at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, just a few miles from our home in Wichita. We’ve been to Tanganyika several times over the years, often participating in the animal encounters that come with park admission –feeding ring-tail lemurs, giraffe and lorikeets among other species – but we’d never purchased one of their behind-the-scenes experiences.

I called and scheduled the experience for a late Sunday morning, allowing us time to explore the park’s exhibits before the experience. Five others had signed up for the experience, and my husband followed behind and took photos from outside the enclosure through the window.

Chewbacca the Sloth holds onto a caretaker in his home at Tanganyika Wildlife ParkThe park’s sloth caretaker led our small group from the gift shop to the sloth’s enclosure, which also houses an armadillo. The enclosure is small, hot and humid. Three at a time, we took turns going inside the enclosure to meet Chewbacca, or Chewie for short, named for the beloved, hairy character from Star Wars.

Chewie is a two-toed sloth born in 2017 at a private facility in Missouri. He moved to Tanganyika in 2018 after weaning from his mother. Two-toed sloths are indigenous to Central America and South America and spend most of their lives hanging upside down from trees. They cannot walk, so they pull hand-over-hand to move very slowly.

Chewbacca the Sloth hangs from a rope and eats a snack

As she told us about Chewie, she placed him on a rope and allowed him to hang there while we feed him small pieces of fruit and vegetables. We also had time to pet him and take a few photos. As soon as we left the enclosure, Chewie fell asleep (sloths sleep 15-20 hours a day) right where we left him, of course!

The experience lasted just 30 minutes but it was fun to learn more about these interesting creatures and to get so close to Chewie. I felt like it was a good balance between giving visitors an intimate experience while not exploiting the animal.

– MeLinda Schnyder

Planning a trip to Wichita and looking for a “wildly different experience”? Consider spending time at Tanganyika. The wildlife park will be open for the 2019 season from March 8 through Nov. 10. Learn about all the animal encounters you can have, as well as this special sloth experience and other behind the scenes experiences.