Next Thursday, April 22, marks the continuation of something big. This is when Lee Richardson Zoo joins with other conservation organizations across the world in celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day is a time to honor the treasures of nature and remember that we can make a difference. From recycling to conserving water and saving electricity, Earth Day helps to remind us that the small actions we perform every single day can add up in a big way.

So as tradition dictates, the zoo will once again host our annual Earth Day party for the planet, celebrating how "Biodiversity Goes Big!" We are expecting more than 1,200 attendees this year and we would love to have more. Not only will you learn ways to protect our natural resources, but we have many other fun events and activities lined up for everyone to enjoy.

Exhibitors from across the region will be hosting booths with activities, freebies and, of course, information about how we can take care of the earth that we live on. The 22 exhibitors will be scattered across the zoo and will include organizations such as Walmart, Sunflower Electric, Kansas Forestry Service and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The fire department will be present with one of their pumper trucks, soaking willing guests and teaching the proper way to hold a fire hose. While you are already wet, you should check out the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management booth where you will be able to learn about water run-off while racing against your friends in a fun water-squirting game. You also don't want to miss "Whitey" Whitehill, an agricultural agent from the Finney County Extension Office, with his live honey bee hive.

Then there are the animal talks, given by our knowledgeable and dedicated keepers. If you haven't seen an elephant demonstration before, you should make your way over to the elephant exhibit at 10:20 a.m. to watch as our two largest zoo ladies show off behaviors that help the keepers monitor their health. Our new baby Bactrian camel will also star with mother and father at 11 a.m., when the camel keepers answer your questions and share their experiences. Lastly, stop by the exhibit that houses the two rowdiest brothers in Garden City. At noon, our sloth bear keepers will discuss the joys and challenges of keeping these two active boys healthy and safe.

After you have viewed the animals from a distance, how about getting up close to some of our animal pelts, skulls and bones? The big tent on the green by the Finnup Center will house some of our larger biofact pieces. Compare the size of your hand to the paw of a lion, stretch out your arms and see if you can beat the wingspan of the California condor, and determine for yourself if whales really are the largest animal in the world.

After all this, if you still have a little energy to burn, you should try your hand at some of our keeper-inspired games. See if you can correctly count all the birds in our aviary. This is an important task that our bird keepers must perform every day. If you master the bird counting, then maybe you should try creating a diet for some of our zoo animals. It is much harder than you may think to make sure they are getting the nutrition they need. You can also attempt to wrangle "snakes" or clean an "exhibit."

Sound like fun? You bet it is! Our Earth Day celebration is open to anyone who would like to attend. However, we ask that if you are a school group that you call and let us know in advance that you will be coming. The event begins at 9 a.m. and will last until around 2 p.m. If you have any questions, feel free to call the education division at 276-1250. Not only will you have a good time, you will learn ways to take care of our natural resources. We hope to see you there!

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