The Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo just wrapped up another successful A Wild Affair on Sept. 7, but the fun doesn’t stop there! We’ll be celebrating a few more awesome events at the zoo very soon.

Saturday, Sept. 21 we’ll be focused on red pandas for the 10th Annual International Red Panda Day. Sunday, Sept. 22 the theme switches to “Five Species Forever” in celebration of the world’s five species of rhinos for World Rhino Day!

International Red Panda Day is the third Saturday of September every year and has been celebrated internationally thanks to partnerships through the Red Panda Network. The Red Panda Network is a group that is committed to the conservation of wild red pandas and their habitat through the education and empowerment of local communities. The Red Panda Network works closely with local communities in the red panda’s habitat to develop conservation programs that help support their economic well-being, as well as preserve the environment.

Red pandas are around the size of a large house cat and are more closely related to raccoons than giant pandas. Discovered in 1825, the red panda was the only panda known in the west for more than 50 years and is often referred to as the “first panda”. Weighing around 12 pounds, red panda bodies measure about two feet long with their bushy, ringed tails adding about another 18 inches. As their name implies, they are a reddish, deep chestnut color, with distinguishing white ears, eyebrows, cheeks and muzzle.

We’ll be celebrating from 3 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21 with fun opportunities to learn more about this unique species. There will be face-painting for those wanting to look like a red panda. Guests can also talk and ask questions with a staff member who works directly with our red panda family during a Keeper Chat. There will also be a Discovery Cart featuring bio-facts from which guests can learn from.

The next day, Sunday, Sept. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m., guests are invited to join us for a ton of fun at World Rhino Day. Learning about the five species of rhino, including the pair of black rhinos that call LRZ home will be easy with rhino encounters, a keeper chat, discovery carts and games available for all ages to enjoy. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists black rhinos as critically endangered and red pandas as endangered. Both species are being threatened due to habitat loss and poaching. Join us in learning what actions we can take to help save these species.

Whether your next visit to the zoo is for our upcoming conservation days or a regular stop-in, you may notice a few changes. The duck pond is being drained as one of the first steps of progress towards our new flamingo habitat that will begin construction soon. For more info, keep an eye out for updates on all things LRZ, including details for the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo’s "Boo! At the Zoo" scheduled for Oct. 19, on our website (www.leerichardsonzoo.org) as well as our Facebook and other social media platforms, or give us a call at 620-276-1250.

 Emily Sexson is the conservation education manager at Lee Richardson Zoo.