Have you ever wanted to do your part to help conserve wildlife, but just didn't know where to start or what to do? There are so many species in need. Money's tight, so you can't give much, but you still want to do something. An easy answer is to feed the ducks.

On the surface, that may sound like a silly suggestion, but when you visit Lee Richardson Zoo and put just a quarter into the food machine at the duck pond, you can have the joy of feeding the waterfowl and fish, as well as helping a number of other animals.

How so? you ask. The money is regularly collected out of the machines, and when enough has accumulated in the account, the staff at Lee Richardson Zoo selects a worthy cause to which funds are sent.

During the year, zoo staff members are encouraged to suggest a worthy cause that should be considered for support.

The cause may be a local or international conservation effort or an improvement to something in the zoo.

The various suggested conservation projects usually relate to an animal that lives at Lee Richardson Zoo, but that isn't a requirement.

Periodically, a list of the recommended causes is distributed and a vote occurs. Through this process, the duck pond fund has benefited a variety of conservation efforts: black-footed ferrets in northwest Kansas, lemurs in Madagascar, amphibians in crisis worldwide, research into elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), addax of the Sahara and so much more.

Conservation efforts often have ripple effects. They may be focused on one animal, but also have beneficial effects on others of the region. Actions that protect the addax in the Sahara often also benefit ostriches, fennec foxes, jerboas, striped hyenas and other animals of the region.

The duck pond funds so far have all gone to outside conservation efforts, with one exception. Monies from the duck pond fund were awarded to one in-house improvement the construction of the man-made wetlands located by the waterfall.

Your quarters, when combined with those from other people, truly have had an effect around the world.

Contributions don't have to be enormous to make good things happen. Sure, large contributions have a bigger effect and recipients are very glad to receive them, but smaller ones are valuable, too, and just as well received.

A recent example of the contributions of many combining to have a larger effect is Boo! At the Zoo.

Some contributed time to help put the event together or to work a treat station, while others bought a $3 ticket to get in the gate. The result of the combined efforts and contributions of all was an enjoyable evening attended by about 5,346 people and $20,500 more toward the construction of Cat Canyon.

Cat Canyon, a new exhibit planned for the mountain lion, jaguars and bobcats currently in Cats of the Americas, will benefit not only the cats that live in it and the keepers who work the area, but also every visitor who sees it.

The larger, more naturalistic exhibits will give the animals a more comfortable area to act like the wild cats that they are. Keepers will have more options to provide enrichment and more space to train behaviors and do their job safely.

Visitors will have a better chance to see how these cats really act, which is what it's all about. It's about a quarter here and there, people caring and cats being cats.

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