Here at Lee Richardson Zoo, we have a mission. Our mission gives us purpose, guides our actions, unites our staff, shapes the way we interact with our guests and helps us plan for the future. That mission is to connect people with wildlife, inspiring appreciation and understanding of the natural world through conservation, education and inspiring experiences.

In a nutshell, our goal is to inspire conservation of wildlife and wild places. It’s a lofty goal and not an easy one to achieve. Sometimes, when you look at all the challenges wildlife face not only right here in our backyards, but all across the world, that goal can seem unreachable. When that happens, it’s important to take a step back and realize that we aren’t alone in our mission. We are part of a community that loves us and supports what we do, and part of a larger community of zoos and aquariums across the country and around the world that share our goal.

The reason our mission is so important is that wildlife and the places they call home need help. The challenges faced by wildlife are complex, encompassing issues that may be social, economic, environmental, political or philosophical. No one person can solve these issues. It takes many hands and many voices, working and speaking together to create change for the better. The support we get from our community here in Garden City and from our colleagues at other institutions ensures that our hands and our voices are part of the solution to help wildlife. That support helps us provide the very best care to our animal residents, participate in critical research and spread the word about how to help wildlife.

May 18 is Endangered Species Day. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set aside this special day to recognize efforts to conserve our nation’s endangered species and their habitats. We can think with pride about the stories of the bald eagle and American alligator, once hovering on the brink of extinction, now thriving thanks to the efforts of many people from many walks of life working together to save these iconic species. The zoo’s own black-footed ferret, Fazool, is a living reminder of another uniquely American species almost lost forever that was saved by the hard work of many dedicated people. When we reflect on these successes, it gives us hope that our goal, our mission, is not insurmountable. We can have an impact when we work together.

At the zoo, we take the opportunity on Saturday to recognize not only our nation’s species in need of help, but also our animal residents from around the world that are endangered, and in some cases critically endangered. An endangered species is one that faces a high risk of extinction in the near future, while a critically endangered species is one that faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future.

Lee Richardson Zoo is home to the following endangered species: grey-crowned crane, red-ruffed lemur, siamang, black-footed ferret, red panda, Asian wild horse and banteng. The following species at the zoo hold the unfortunate distinction of being critically endangered: Bali mynah, black-handed spider monkey, long-tailed chinchilla, Amur leopard, eastern black rhinoceros, Bactrian camel and addax.

We invite you to visit our species in need at the zoo. You can be a part of helping wildlife in need right in your own backyard by visiting our special monarch butterfly discovery cart on Saturday at the zoo and receiving a free packet of milkweed seeds to plant at home. Milkweed is critical to the survival of the monarch butterfly, whose populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in some parts of its range.

Attend a rhino keeper talk, chat with the chinchilla keeper at the ambassador animal talk in the Nature Playspace, talk with the Amur leopard caretakers in Wild Asia. Connect with our animal residents and their passionate, dedicated caretakers. Let them share why you, our guests, are so important to us and our mission, and how much we appreciate your love and support. We cannot do the work we do without you.

On Endangered Species Day or any day, let us inspire you to do something wonderful for wildlife and wild places. With a little help from our friends, our goal is within reach.

 

Sarah Colman is general curator at Lee Richardson Zoo.