This summer the fashionable alpaca will be wearing a mop-top hairdo, a shaggy tail and "leg warmer" fleece around their lower legs — at least that's what you'll see at Lee Richardson Zoo now that the alpacas were sheared a few weeks ago. There is still one alpaca with a full coat. He was born earlier this year and generally we don't shear them until they're at least a year old. Shearing the alpacas and the karakul sheep is a regular late spring/early summer routine at the zoo. The animals are cooler for the hot summer weather, but still have time to grow a nice, warm coat before the cold temperatures of winter set in.
Besides the new "dos" for the alpacas and sheep, new sights at the zoo include the new mesh surrounding the outdoor flight at the Marie Osterbuhr Aviary. The resident birds recently moved back into their remodeled digs and are making themselves right at home. The hamerkops have already made a great deal of headway on their new nest for the year. These birds are renowned for the enormous nest they construct. The bald eagle has also returned to her exhibit, now that the flight mesh replacement has been completed (the exhibits share a common wall).
Next to the eagle exhibit is another project to keep your eye on. The new tortoise building is making great progress. Once finished, the African spurred tortoises will have a home where visitors can check in on them year-round. Other new sights at the zoo include our summer staff. We have a number of new folks in the maintenance, animal and education divisions. Some are from the local area while others came from farther away (i.e. California, Pennsylvania). No matter where they're from, each has dedicated their summer to making sure the animals and visitors have a good time at the zoo.
While visiting the zoo this summer you may observe a docent (education volunteer) videotaping the elephants. Our elephants (and staff) are participating in a year-long research project which is using science to understand the welfare of zoo elephants across the country. We tapped the education division to assist with the taping of the elephants because the camera person has to be someone to whom the elephants don't react. The keeper and maintenance staff are well known to the elephants so their presence could cause the elephants to alter their behavior during the filming, which would then affect the results of the study.
The lion rock project in the west lion yard was recently completed. As soon as the new grass in the yard has a chance to get established, the lions will get to roam through the yard and clamber all over the rock, laying on top of it to soak up the sun or laying under an overhang enjoying the cool shade, as well as the soothing sounds of the gentle waterfall that will trickle down the rock. A big thank-you goes to the Lions Club, Mark Sexson and a number of other volunteers who supplied a helping hand making the new lion "furniture."
There's always something new to see at the zoo, but you don't have to take my word for it. During veterinary rounds this week, we encountered a group of visitors who asked about a procedure they had observed us performing earlier (an addax physical examination). They said they were regular visitors but had never seen anything like that, in fact, they always saw something different each time they visited the zoo. So, when you have a free moment and want to enjoy something different, visit Lee Richardson Zoo.
Visit our website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org.