The Christmas season is in full swing, Black Friday is behind us and you may be wondering what to get some of those hard-to-buy-for people on your gift list. If you were one of those people who visited the zoo during the beautiful weather last Friday after an early morning shopping spree, or perhaps even instead of one, the zoo may have some items that could help you out in the gift-giving department!

If you have animal lovers on your list, consider giving them a membership from the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo. Zoo memberships come in a variety of price ranges and entitle the bearer to unlimited free vehicle admission year-round, invitations to member events, discounts at the Safari Shoppe, subscription to our quarterly newsletter "Zoo Gnus," and reciprocal free or discounted admission to many other accredited zoos and aquariums nationwide. Memberships start as low as $25 for an Individual (family, business and other categories also are available, and all provide a year full of fun and education).

You also can use that membership for discounts on great gift ideas at the Safari Shoppe. Whether you are looking for unique plush animals, zoo-ey T-shirts, mugs and animal figurines, children's toys, jewelry, Garden City or Garden City High School Buffalo souvenirs, wind chimes, puzzles or other items, the shoppe has a great selection of merchandise. Pick one of many exotic animals from the selection of unstuffed critters, and build your own animal, complete with a fun outfit, and the Safari Shoppe staff will help you stuff it right there on the spot with the Animal Land fluffing machine! If you prefer to let one of your younger friends choose their own animal, gift certificates are available. Will it be an otter, an elephant, panda or lion? With dozens of animals to pick from, you may need more than one Animal Land friend!

The Safari Shoppe is run by the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo, the non profit organization that supports many of the great improvements you see at the zoo. All of the proceeds from gift and concession sales support zoo improvements like Wild Asia, Kansas Waters, the Marie Osterbuhr Aviary and, coming soon, Cat Canyon.

The Friends have many other programs that support zoo improvements that also make great gifts. Perhaps you would like to give someone an elephant for Christmas, or if that's too huge to contemplate, maybe a snow leopard would fit the season better. FOLRZ oversees our Adopt An Animal program, where adoptive parents get to help fund the care for their favorite animal all year long. The animal stays in comfortable and appropriate quarters here at the zoo, and our keepers take care of the messy part, so there's no poop scooping or shredded furniture for you to worry about. You can visit your wild child any time the zoo is open, year-round. Adopt packages start at just $15, and come with a photo adoption certificate and information sheet about your adoptee, and we'll put up a plaque displaying your name and your adoptee on our Adopt An Animal Board near the giraffe exhibit.

Have someone more energetic on your list? Perhaps a future zoo keeper? Give the gift of being a "Keeper for a Day." This package has options for a full or half-day working visit alongside our keepers, with your choice of several animal areas, and even a lunch from the Safari Shoppe. Members are entitled to a discounted price for this unique and memorable experience, so check out your options.

New this year, our local chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) has put together a fun calendar for 2010 featuring LRZ's very own animals. Each month has both large and small pictures of your favorite animals, with captions supplied by the actual people that care for these animals daily and know them best. You'll enjoy photos of our lion family, Sniffy the Anteater, beautiful birds, radical reptiles and more. Orders for the calendars are being taken through Monday at the zoo office or Safari Shoppe, but if you missed that deadline, extra copies will be available for sale at the Safari Shoppe mid-month. Proceeds from the sale of calendars will provide enrichment items (food treats and toys) for the animals, as well as for continuing education for our animal care staff.

If you need more information about any of these fun gift ideas, visit or contact the Friends office at 276-6243 or the Safari Shoppe at 276-2661.

Shopping can be stressful enough, so let us help you fill some of your needs in a quiet and friendly atmosphere, and then take a relaxing stroll or drive through the zoo to unwind.

The zoo is free to vehicles for the months of December through February, so take advantage of our exotic creatures and beautiful grounds from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. We will close on Christmas and New Year's Day so that our staff can spend time with their own families after seeing to their daily animal duties, but we don't hibernate for the rest of the winter, so come on down.

Visit our Web site at www.garden-city.org/zoo.