If you haven't been to the zoo in a while, you are certainly missing out! There are a lot of changes going on and lots of new things to see! Aside from our multitude of growing youngsters, such as the goeldi's monkey, addax, camel and alpaca babies, we have several new construction projects that are nearing completion.
For example, the bald eagle will be gaining two new neighbors thanks to the generous donation from some zoo friends! A building and enclosed yard are taking shape at the former site of the vultures and red-tailed hawk exhibits (just west of the elephant yard). Our two African spurred tortoises will be moving here when construction is completed. The building has a heated floor with a natural dirt digging pit (tortoises love to dig!) and large windows that allow for visitors to view them year-round. The floor level in the tortoise building is raised, putting guests eye to eye with these amazing reptiles. These tortoises currently roam the yard next to the giraffes and are housed in a heated upstairs loft in the giraffe barn during winter or inclement weather. Because they can grow to 200 pounds, getting them to the second-floor holding soon will be out of the question when they reach their full size. This new building will allow them to have a roomy indoor holding space and large outdoor yard that is all on one level, and allows them to be on exhibit all year long!
Our African lions have a larger yard as well! The former tiger exhibit has been revamped to accommodate our male and female lions, Razi and Amali. Just last week, the lions were introduced into their new yard, which sported a large rock and water feature funded in part by Noon Lions Club, and constructed by Mark Sexson and many volunteers and staff helpers. A chute connects the east and west yards and will allow the lions to travel from one area to another and provide the keepers with space for possible training demonstrations. This expansion effectively doubles their outdoor space and will allow us to separate the lions into the two yards if and when we have cubs again.
And for those of you who wonder if we will ever get tigers again, the answer to that question is a bit more complicated. Our zoo master plan (the overarching "vision" for the zoo) would construct a new tiger exhibit in Wild Asia where the current Pere David deer exhibit is located. Obviously that area is not ready for a large carnivore, so we will not be getting one any time soon. However, by using the old tiger yard for the new lion space, we do have enough room for more little lion cubs in the future.
While it may not be as obvious, the Marie Osterbuhr Aviary also got an update with brand new poles and mesh. The birds that live in the aviary were moved off exhibit to our quarantine building while their exhibit was remodeled. The flight cage is finished, and all the birds currently are enjoying their free-flighted enclosure.
And last, but certainly not least, many guests have been asking about Cat Canyon. The Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo has been raising money for this extensive exhibit that will house our bobcats, jaguars and mountain lion for the past several years. The project went out to bid in January, and the bids came back higher than anticipated. As a result, modifications were made and the project was rebid with a more successful outcome. The ground breaking for this near-million-dollar exhibit will be held at 12:15 p.m. Thursday. If you would like to attend, we will be meeting in the parking lot next to the playground near our Wild Asia exhibit.
There are many other exciting projects on the horizon, such as the expansion of our elephant yard and the relocation of the red pandas to the former lion-tailed macaque exhibit. And if you would rather see some new animal faces, then be sure to check out the South American Pampas yard where a new rhea is on display (with the anteater, tapir and resident rhea "Margarita") or swing by the Marie Osterbuhr Aviary to view our new male burrowing owl (who has joined our female burrowing owl in her exhibit).
The fact that we are constantly growing and improving our exhibits is a sign that our facility is thriving. Yet we couldn't do any of this without the support of you: the citizens, visitors and fans of Lee Richardson Zoo both in Garden City and throughout the United States. So be sure to come by and enjoy all the new and exciting things that are taking place, and we thank you for helping to make it all possible.
Be sure to visit our new website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org.