The summer is off to a roaring start here at the zoo.

Our young lions are delighting visitors from far and wide, and will soon have names. The naming contest for the babies ends Monday, and we hope to find the perfect monikers for our three wild things.

Entry forms are available online and at several locations around the zoo and Garden City. For more information about how the contest works, visit our Web site at

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of Cat Tales, and lest you think that means we experienced a tornado down here, I can assure you it only feels that way.

Cat Tales is actually an immensely fun and entertaining production by Skip Mancini. A cast and crew of about 40 dedicated folks have been creating, developing, rehearsing and performing this Vaudeville-style theater production for months now.

Most of the shows have been sold out and when it wraps up this weekend, it looks like that trend will hold true.

If you haven't bought tickets yet, you can take a last shot at "cat"-ching the popular performance before its nine lives are done by coming to the Finnup Center prior to the remaining shows to take advantage of any cancellations or no-shows.

Any empty seats or returned tickets will be made available for sale at show time on a first come first served basis.

Thanks to the generosity and many talents of Skip and Vincent Mancini, Cat Tales is raising funds for Cat Canyon, a more natural and spacious exhibit for our mountain lion, bobcats and jaguars. The response from the community has been amazing, both in generating excitement and funds for the exhibit.

The Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo (FOLRZ), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is currently seeking funds for the exhibit, with a goal of raising $600,000 by the end of next year. We anticipate that Cat Tales will help us break the $400,000 mark.

Also on tap to help fund Cat Canyon is our next event, A Wild Affair, also sponsored by FOLRZ. This year's theme is "Party 'Til the Cats Come Home" and have we got a party planned for our fourth annual event.

Tickets are now on sale for the July 18 evening soiree, and this "adults only" event is a summer must.

Enjoy heavy hors d'oeuvres from 15 local restaurants and caterers, wine, beer, the foot-tapping rhythms of the Fulton Street Band, encounters with the Education Division's animal ambassadors, and some fabulous auction items donated for our live and silent auctions.

All this fun is set in the lush environment of Wild Asia, which is decked out in twinkling lights, tents, tables and chairs and exotic living treasures from around the globe. Past years have seen the Sarus cranes trumpeting a duet with the band, and leopards watching the fun from their high perches.

This year I expect our new sloth bear brothers will also enjoy the entertaining humans throughout the evening, and vice versa. Tickets are $35 per person and can be purchased by mail, at the zoo, Office Solutions, and Dillons East and West. Mark your calendar now as you won't want to miss the fun.

Other new stuff at the zoo includes way-finding signs that are gradually appearing at strategic decision points throughout the grounds. Not sure which way to the giraffes or the lions? These signs will help point the way to wherever you want to go, whether that is the elephants, exit, education center, elk, eats, otters or restrooms.

Regular zoo-goers also have been keeping a close eye on the project going on at our duck pond, and may be wondering exactly what we are doing.

On the west end of the pond by the waterfall, we are adding some man-made wetlands to help clean the water. Wetlands are Mother Nature's natural way to clean water, as plant roots help to remove nutrients from the water to fuel their own growth.

The water in our ponds is recycled, and this closed system currently has no way to rid itself of excess nutrients introduced by waterfowl and fall leaves. A portion of the pond will continually cycle through the wetland plants, with the end result being a cleaner pond.

The Animal Division also is keeping busy. Last week, our older giraffe calf was moved to the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Mich. He was about 12 feet tall, and we wanted to move him while he still could fit under overpasses and power lines.

Some tiny new creatures have arrived in Wild Asia in the form of baby scorpions. Hatched at the Topeka Zoo these little invertebrates will eventually grow big enough that you can actually find them in the display, but right now they only measure about an inch long. They are currently residing in temporary containers inside their future exhibit at the Nocturnal Building until they are large enough to be released into their exhibit.

Our anteater is off display temporarily, convalescing from a broken elbow suffered in a tumble from a tree. I guess his mother never told him not to climb trees. After a three-hour surgery, three pins and one screw to repair the break, he seems to be recovering well. We hope to have him back on display soon.

Zoo Camp starts up next week, and there still are spaces available. Camps run Monday through Friday mornings with five different sessions this summer. If you have kids entering first through sixth grades, let us chase away their boredom with our Primate Palooza. Call the Education Division at the zoo for more details.

The fun never ends, so come see us soon.

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