Whether it’s the coldest day of the year or the hottest day or somewhere in between, the dedicated staff of Lee Richardson Zoo are on the job.

Over 400 animals call the 50-plus beautifully landscaped acres of Lee Richardson Zoo home, and they need to be fed and cared for every day of the year. There are long-range programs at the zoo, such as Species Survival Plans through which multiple zoos cooperatively work to manage and save species, as well as long-term plans for the future of the zoo as portrayed in the Master Plan. But immediate needs of food, water, shelter, and safety make up a good portion of the day-to-day work for the majority of the steadfast staff.

Ensuring the well-being of the residents, sharing the message of the zoo, and providing a safe, enjoyable environment for residents, staff and guests is definitely a full-time job. Actually, it’s a full-time job for 29 people plus a few part-timers and seasonal contributors, as well as a group of committed volunteers.

Even if there’s 12 inches of snow on the ground with a 30 mph “breeze” blowing, that doesn’t stop the zoo staff, and neither do the 102-degree blistering days with no breeze at all. Their goal is to take care of the animals, ensure guests enjoy the zoo safely while learning about the residents and ways they can help animals in the wild, and make sure everyone gets home safely at the end of a day of hard, but rewarding, work.

When a snowstorm comes through, members of the maintenance team are at it bright and early before anyone else gets in. They’re focused on clearing the paths for staff to get to the various barns and buildings where the supplies and the animals are. Once animal care staff arrive, they’re gathering diets and off to ensure the welfare of the animals in the areas for which they are responsible. If anyone needs help with a frozen lock or a stuck door, or a stuck truck for that matter, help will be on the way you can be sure.

Let’s not leave the education staff and volunteers out of this by any means. Whether it’s delivering an educational program or helping clear fallen limbs or shoveling some snow around the zoo, they roll up their sleeves and get the job done, rain or shine.

While the weather doesn’t stop the staff, it does affect which animals may be seen by those visiting the zoo. Each species has temperatures they’re comfortable with, and those are the basis for the temperature guidelines the staff follow.

The majority are just like you and I, enjoying the mid-range temps of spring and fall predominately. Some, such as the red pandas, takin, alpacas and Pallas cat, enjoy the cooler weather as the thermometer slips into the lower digits of winter. Others, such as the rhinos, lions, and Sniffy the giant anteater, enjoy a mud bath, an ice treat, or a dip in the pool as the temperature climbs on the toastier days of summer.

No matter the weather, you can be sure staff are at the zoo taking care of business. I want to thank each and every one of them for their dedication, and invite you to come out and see the results of their efforts and talent. If you’re ready to stretch your legs or go for a ride, bundle up and come enjoy the zoo. There’s always something to see at Lee Richardson Zoo.


Kristi Newland is the director of Lee Richardson Zoo