FROM ZOO TO YOU The zoo’s awesome animal ambassadors

By Alyssa Mechler

Have you ever visited the Lee Richardson Zoo and wondered if there are any reptiles, amphibians, or smaller mammals? Inquiring minds that end up at the Animals page on the zoo website, where it lists all the animals that call the zoo home, will see that such animals do reside at the zoo. You may notice that some of these animals are listed as education animal ambassadors. What does that mean?

Education ambassadors are animals that travel with educators to schools, retirement homes, libraries, and many other places to share information with groups about their species. This allows people the opportunity to get up close to animals they may never have a chance to see otherwise and inspire them to help the animal’s wild counterparts. 

Not only do the education ambassadors get to travel, but they also assist in programs on zoo grounds. They participate in Story Time on Monday mornings at 10:30 a.m. in the Finnup Center for Conservation Education, birthday parties, education center programs, distance learning programs, and camps! As you can see, the education ambassadors are pretty busy. Because of this, they have habitats that are not viewable to the public, allowing them privacy when not in programs.

Even though education ambassadors spend a lot of their time on programs, they still enjoy time relaxing and exploring. The education ambassadors have an outdoor area where they can spend time catching some sunshine, exploring the outdoors, and listening to all the sounds around the zoo while still being safe. This area is called the mews, and it sits north of the duck pond and west of the Finnup Center. Occasionally educators or docents bring education ambassadors out on grounds to do impromptu chats while also allowing some of the ambassadors to have free time exploring.

Education ambassadors fill many roles, from special guests at birthday parties to experts on their way of life. They can show people all their amazing adaptations for survival, help explain why they may not make a great pet for someone, and help to educate about a variety of other topics. 

If you are looking to learn more about what animals are education ambassadors, head over to www.leerichardsonzoo.org. For those who want to see some of these animals, you can visit the education ambassadors that are native to Kansas in the Finnup Center for Conservation Education hallway. You can also call to schedule a program where one of the many awesome ambassadors will come out for a visit!

Alyssa Mechler is the conservation awareness manager at Lee Richardson Zoo.