Cooler weather and the Thanksgiving holiday seem to turn some to reflection.

Many of us contemplate what to say when it's our turn to actually put into words what we're thankful for when all those around the holiday table are sharing their heartfelt thoughts that are all too often kept to one's self.

While cuddled up warm indoors with a blustery cold wind blowing outside, we begin to review the events of the past year and look forward to the new one.

Here at the zoo, things to be thankful for can be quite simple, such as a new rake that is so much more effective than the one with the missing tines or as complex as the marvelous community support we receive from the citizens, the employees, the city government and other entities in and around Garden City.

The support comes in many ways, regular visits, standing with us in the good times (lion cubs) and the bad (the death of an animal), food or plant donations, one-time or regular funding, helping with or participating in fundraising events such as "Cat Tales," putting trash in the trash cans while visiting the zoo and so much more.

The base of support allows Lee Richardson Zoo to pursue its goal of instilling appreciation and encouraging stewardship of the Earth's natural treasures through the exhibition, conservation and interpretation of wildlife.

During the past year we've had three lion cubs that are looking more like their parents every day, we've sent animals into breeding programs at other zoos (boat-billed heron, red kangaroo, etc.) and set up breeding pairs here (pygmy slow lorises, for example).

We've started working with a few new species of birds (i.e. red-billed blue magpies), our education programs have reached more than 31,000 people, and we've started three construction projects that will aid the zoo in fulfilling its mission.

All around the world, many species of plants and animals continue to march closer to extinction. There are now more species of birds considered threatened by extinction and more considered critically endangered than ever before.

Poaching, as well as other issues, continue to threaten populations of Amur tigers, African elephants, black rhinos and more. But there are some glimmers of hope: black footed ferrets, one of the rarest mammals in North America, have a well-developed captive breeding and reintroduction program that is going well; Lear's macaw, also known as the indigo macaw, is now considered endangered rather than critically endangered, thanks to a multi-faceted conservation effort. There are even new animals still being discovered, for instance the Bosavi woolly rat in Papua New Guinea, and five species of seahorses in the Red Sea and Indonesia.

While there's not much we can do about the past but learn from it and move on, the opportunities open before us with the new year are wide open.

What babies will be born? What new species will come to the zoo to help capture the imaginations of visitors to Lee Richardson Zoo? Will one of our education programs or a visit to the zoo inspire the next Jane Goodall or Jacques Cousteau?

The one thing we can do about the past is make sure those we appreciate know how we feel. Thanks for your support and we hope you'll stay with us for the adventure ahead.

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