Kristi Newland

Saturday, Sept. 19, is International Red Panda Day. It’s a day to raise awareness about red pandas. Lee Richardson Zoo invites you to come out and enjoy this special day.

There will be a Discovery Cart available from 9 - 11 a.m., where you can see and learn about interesting biofacts related to red pandas. At 9:30 a.m., there will be a Keeper Chat in the Wild Asia area, complete with Shanu, the red panda cub born last year, selecting the names for her younger siblings that were born earlier this year. Mom, Ember, and the little ones are still enjoying the comfort and privacy of their den, so they won’t be participating in the event. To round out the day’s event, there will also be an outdoor Story Time at 10:30 a.m., held in the grassy area in front of the main entrance to Wild Asia.

Holding this outside allows for proper social distancing while enjoying the program. There will also be a take-home craft available while supplies last. The highlighted story will be “A Tale of Two Pandas”.

While at the Discovery cart, if interested, you can donate funds that the zoo will send to the Red Panda Network for red panda conservation efforts. The current focus is to plant 100,000 trees in Nepal, improving the habitat for pandas in the wild. Red pandas spend a great deal of time in trees. They nest and even sleep in trees. They are very well adapted to an arboreal life, having a specialized rotating ankle joint that enables them to descend trees head-first like a squirrel. The population of red pandas is decreasing in the wild with one of the biggest threats being the decline in their habitat, so 100,000 trees would definitely help. Information for donating online is also available on the zoo’s Facebook page and website.

If you need more red in your day, be sure to stop by Primate Forest-Lemurs! The new exhibit opened to the public on Sept. 15. A trio of critically endangered red ruffed lemurs resides in the area along with a brother/sister pair of critically endangered black and white ruffed lemurs and a quartet of endangered ring-tailed lemurs.

Lemurs have a number of different vocalizations they use to stay in touch with each other, and they can get quite loud when they all talk at once. If you hear a new sound while you’re at the zoo, it’s probably the lemurs announcing their presence.

Also new to the zoo, and in the red family of colors – the flamingos have a new home! The flamingos ventured out onto their new beach earlier in the week and seem to be enjoying the sand and water. While they don’t build sandcastles, they do spend time splashing in the shallows.

There’s one more mammal species at the zoo that shows off the color red very well. See if you can find it during your next visit to the zoo.

Kristi Newland is the director at Lee Richardson Zoo.