Last weekend, Lee Richardson Zoo was home to the Tumbleweed Festival showcasing a wide array of musical performances. This three-day event draws a crowd each year and fills the West Green of the zoo with guests eager to enjoy the performances. While some may believe that musical acts in the zoo are limited to special events, there are performances every day at the zoo if you know when to visit and if you are open to a wide range of melodious sounds.
For those willing to wake up early, there is a daily zoo chorus to be enjoyed. Just like your own household becomes louder as people and pets begin to rise, so does the zoo. As the sun creeps above the horizon, birds start their morning chatter. The Indian sarus crane is known for the unison calling performed between mated pairs. During this display, the female begins her call with a series of complex vocalizations that harmonize with the male’s trumpet. These calls can be heard far beyond Wild Asia each day, but if you happen to be around their habitat when the call starts, you might have the opportunity to witness the male displaying his feathers or the pair “dancing” together. As the zoo continues to awaken, more musical calls can be heard.
Another recognizable call at the zoo is the siamang duet. Siamangs, a type of primate native to Sumatra and Malaysia, have amazing vocal abilities. They possess a large throat sac which is inflated to amplify calls. Siamang calls can be heard up to two miles away! This amplification is important for a family of siamangs to communicate across their forest habitat or for establishing a family's territory of trees. While the ability to amplify their calls is impressive, they produce only two different sounds with the sac. Using the throat sac, they produce a deep boom when the mouth is closed and a loud “wow” made with an open mouth. The production of these two different sounds starts off slow and increases in frequency. As the siamang song progresses, they add to the performance with a display of acrobatics high above the ground. Our resident siamangs, Zollie and Suki, frequently call to reinforce their bond as a mated pair, creating a beautiful duet for all to enjoy.
Another song that rings out from the zoo is the roar of lions. Both male and female lions produce a range of vocalizations to communicate with their social family groups, but the most iconic is the roar. Typically, a roar is used to define a territory or advertise an individual’s location and these deep calls travel an impressive five miles. In nature, lions are most likely to produce roars when they are most active in the cooler morning or evening of the savanna. At the zoo, our lions have fewer concerns over conserving energy for survival; you will hear roars throughout the day in Garden City. As our young bachelor group continues to mature and starts to assert their presence in the area, roars will be more frequently heard ringing out from the zoo.
The trumpet of a crane, the boom of a siamang or a lion’s roar is only the start of the zoo chorus that can be heard each morning. The daily zoo chorus is uniquely beautiful, but if you are looking for more musical performances, don’t forget to purchase your tickets to the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo’s “A Wild Affair.” This “fun-raiser” will take place the evening of Saturday, Sept. 8, on the West Green of the zoo.
At the event, you’ll enjoy live music by Mike Benish and the Buckner Creek Band. While you are serenaded by the performers, you can sip on an adult beverage, sample food from restaurants and caterers across southwest Kansas, and bid on hundreds of unique items in both a live and silent auction. Attendees must be at least 21 years old and purchase tickets in advance to attend. For more information on the event, visit www.folrz.com or call (620) 276-6243.
Catie Policastro is an education specialist for Lee Richardson Zoo.