FROM ZOO TO YOU Making a zoo visit magical

By Kristi Newland

If you attend a magic show, you spend much of the time wondering how the magic was done. Part of the magic of the zoo is you don’t spend time wondering how it’s done. Sure, you might wonder what a certain animal’s name is or what it eats, but questions about the ins and outs of the operation generally don’t come to mind while you’re enjoying your visit to the zoo.

Next week is designated as National Zookeeper Week, so it’s a good time to mention components that contribute to making the magic of the zoo. The hard-working staff are a very big part of it. The members of the Animal Care team make up half of the zoo staff. They spend a great deal of their time learning the individual intricacies of the animals they’re working with and providing those animals with the care they need for optimum welfare. They also help maintain the facilities and grounds, offer keeper chats, and more.

The zoo has a lot of moving parts, machines, fences, and buildings. From electrical work, mechanical repairs, plumbing, carpentry, welding, fence work, and more, the maintenance team at the zoo deals with it all. This crew plays a big role in keeping the zoo safe. They’re also responsible for the welcoming appearance of the grounds. They’re truly jacks-of-all-trades.

The public face of the zoo is often members of the Conservation Awareness team who bring the zoo to the schools as well as offering programs at the zoo. Their ability to design and relay sessions that convey the zoo’s message in a way that’s interesting to various ages and is taken to heart by the audience is truly a talent. The gate attendants and the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo (FOLRZ) staff at the Safari Shoppe help set the friendly tone for your visit. And then there’s also the administrative staff who take care of the paperwork (the bills, records, and permits, etc..) and work on plans for the future of the zoo.

There’s another important component to making the magic of the zoo… that’s community support. Sometimes community support comes through direct donations to the zoo or contributions to the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo. Community support is responsible for the operational budget of the zoo, which comes from the City of Garden City’s General Fund, which is primarily funded by taxes like the sales tax coming up for renewal in the special election on Aug. 3.

Lee Richardson Zoo is a City of Garden City department that will be impacted by the Finney County August ballot. The ballot question will propose the continuation of a current retailers’ sales tax in the amount of a 1/4 cent, to take effect July 1, 2022, and to be levied on retail sales consummated within the County for a period of 15 years. In other words, if passed, for the next 15 years, the County would continue to levy a tax of 1/4 of a penny on every dollar spent on goods and services in Finney County. The City’s portion of the tax dollars collected will be placed in the City’s General Fund, which supports services such as police, fire, transportation Improvements, parks, and the operations of Lee Richardson Zoo. If the question doesn’t pass, the funds currently supporting these efforts would possibly be covered by an increase in property tax, or a reduction in these services.

All the components mentioned above, the various dedicated staff and community support, come together to make the magic of the zoo: connecting people with wildlife, inspiring appreciation and understanding of the natural world through conservation, education, and engaging experiences. If you want to see the results of the combined impact of community support, talented keepers, maintenance staff and educators, guest services, and administrators, visit Lee Richardson Zoo.

Kristi Newland is the director of Lee Richardson Zoo.