When you come to Chahinkapa Zoo you will notice a change. You will still be flanked by a welcoming committee of Tal, the Orangutan and tigers, Neena and Hobbes. You will continue to be entertained by the antics and activities of the gibbons and monkeys. And like me, I hope you will forever be in awe of our species representation from around the world.
What is different is that you will not be greeted by our beautiful Casey. The beloved macaw who danced with thousands of school children when each sang their own rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” passed away on Monday, June 3.
One could feel the presence of her personality upon entering the building. Casey was a favorite to thousands of visitors. Her presence and personality will be forever missed. Walking in to the Nature Center each morning is not the same without seeing her brilliant colors and smelling the slight perfume scent special to macaws. There is a void.
Casey came to Chahinkapa Zoo in 1993. I was a zookeeper and so thrilled to be her caregiver. She was first exhibited outside near the entrance and once the West Nile virus made its way into North Dakota, zoo staff moved her inside for her own protection. For years she helped make Chahinkapa Zoo a special place. Parroting our voices made her an excellent audio impersonator. Staff often thought I was in the building when I was away as she sounded just like me.
Casey also endured the flood of ‘97 and was rescued from the home of Shirley Hunkins, my mother who was a primary caregiver and winter home for Casey. Casey rode in a boat all the way up 7th Street in south Breckenridge.
Although Casey touched the hearts of many people she also had much one on one time with special ladies giving her daily enrichment through the years. Shirley Hunkins, Vonnie Halverson, educators and zoo keepers provided excellent care. Many days Casey made her way down the convoluted hallway to my office. I was lucky to have that time singing and playing her favorite songs like Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans” and “Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
Thank you to Dr. Matz and the terrific folks at Dakota Veterinary Hospital. Casey was in good care after suffering a cerebral vascular accident due to liver and renal complications last Sunday.