There’s never a dull moment at the zoo. In fact, one of the reasons I enjoy my job so much is because there is always something to do. I never have to sit around and twiddle my thumbs, trying to come up with something to occupy my time.

Often, I wish there were more hours in the day to accomplish all my tasks, and I know that feeling doesn’t begin or end with me. Staff and volunteers at the zoo have many hats to wear and fulfill many responsibilities.

Animal care staff ensure that all the animal residents are thriving, as well as help to keep their habitats clean and landscaped. One hour of the day a zookeeper could be feeding a jaguar, the next they could be weed-eating the sidewalks in their area, the next they could be giving a chat about palm oil to zoo guests. Members of our maintenance division not only keep the grounds functioning and looking pristine, they also help design and create habitats for animal residents, as well as many other tasks.

The administrative division at the zoo keeps track of who, what, when, why, where, with not only the animals but staff, as well; with over 300 animals and roughly 30 staff members, that’s no easy feat! My division, the education division, offers programs both on and off zoo grounds, as well as hosts events throughout the year. In 2017, we provided over 1,000 educational opportunities and reached over 30,000 people.

We’re busy here at the zoo, and we like it that way! A big reason that we’re able to stay active and offer a variety of opportunities to zoo guests throughout the year is thanks to our volunteers. When volunteers join the zoo crew, they receive training that covers almost everything that the education division offers: education programs, enrichment, animal encounters and much more. If you’ve ever visited the zoo and took part in an activity, learned something at a Discovery Cart or met an outreach animal up close, more than likely you’ve met one of our volunteers. If you’ve ever participated in a giraffe or rhino encounter, you’ve met a volunteer.

Volunteers help the zoo run smoothly by filling numerous roles both on the front line and behind the scenes. Our Party for the Planet Earth Day event that took place last week ran smoothly, thanks in part to the volunteers. They helped set up all the tables and chairs, helped run the games and activities, helped educate visitors about ending plastic pollution, and helped clean up after everyone was gone.

If you’re interested in helping the zoo in any way, from helping preschoolers make a fun craft, to enriching animal ambassadors, to leading educational programs, please consider attending our volunteer informational session on May 12 at 2 p.m. at the Finnup Center for Conservation Education, to learn all about how you can volunteer at the zoo. This session is an opportunity to meet current volunteers and zoo staff and get more insight into our volunteer program in a relaxed environment. We’ll have coffee and a variety of refreshments to enjoy while you learn, as well as plenty of time for questions.

Can’t attend the session but still interested in volunteering? No problem, give us a call at (620) 276-1250, email or visit our website at


Emily Sexson is an education specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.