If you've been to the zoo lately, you know we have a lot going on.
The lion cubs are frolicking, man-made wetlands are going in at the waterfall to help clean the water, baby little blue herons are venturing out of their nest, and the wild mallards are popping up all over with little ones.
There's also a bevy of activity going on in some dirt mounds. I'm not talking about ants running up and down carrying materials hither and thither around their mounds, although we do have some of that going on in various places. This cacophony of commotion is due to construction.
No, the eagerly awaited Cat Canyon is not under construction.
Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo (FOLRZ) still is raising funds for that much-needed project. In this case, monies (city improvement funds as well as donations from the Finnup Foundation, Kemper Foundation, Mary Jo Williams Trust, Dr. and Mrs. Luther Fry and others) are being put into action to improve three other areas of Lee Richardson Zoo.
Currently under way is an expansion for the Finnup Center for Conservation Education (FCCE). The addition will include a new studio for distance learning programs, a mid-sized conference room, expanded facilities for the education animals, as well as an area for docents (education department volunteers). Now the facility has a lecture room that seats 100 and a small conference room for 12 that are both heavily used. The added conference room will hold 40 to 50 people and will enable many more organizations to host meetings in this beautiful facility.
Due to a growing demand for our programs, our collection of animals that help with education programs long ago exceeded the space allotted for them. Some of them now reside in the room meant for docent use. The expansion will allow the animals and docents to once again have their own space. We'll also be able to cater to the temperature preferences of the animals more than we can at this time.
The new distance learning studio will be down-sized to better suit the purpose of the room and will allow us to install much-needed updated technology without an interruption in our virtual field trips that reach students coast to coast.
Another site of change is in the area of the zoo known as the South American Pampas. If you aren't sure where that is, I'd say look by the alpacas, however, the alpacas and their yard pals recently were moved to another area temporarily to clear the way for construction, so look where they used to be.
In the near future, the alpacas, cavies, rheas, anteater and tapir will have a new barn to call home, replacing the current one that only covered very minimal needs for most of the animals. The new barn also will offer room for a new species, but we'll save that surprise for later.
The third improvement will occur in Wild Asia. Although ground has not been broken at this location at this time, shortly the siamang will have vastly upgraded housing. Current housing is quite restrictive for the siamang and limits introduction and breeding plans involving the animals. With the new house we'll have space to introduce new animals and potentially once again house a family of siamang.
All these improvements would not be possible without the support of the city of Garden City, our benefactors and our visitors. We hope you enjoy the changes as much as the staff and the animals will.
As long as we're talking about changes, if you'd like to help make the new Cat Canyon a reality, it's not too late to buy a ticket for "A Wild Affair," an evening fundraising event full of good food and music hosted by FOLRZ on July 18. Or you can contact FOLRZ at 276-6243 to find out how you can help.
Visit our award-winning Web site at www.garden-city.org/zoo.