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Catch up with the latest news at LRZ with articles, press releases, and other fun updates

written and created by Zoo Staff.

Invasive Species as Pets

From the boa constrictors and iguanas of Florida to domestic cats everywhere, invasive species can range from large to small; either way, they can wreak havoc on any ecosystem. Once an animal population has become established and is thriving, it can be difficult to prevent that population from causing problems. A lot of invasive species can start out as innocently as releasing an unwanted pet but can grow into a huge problem under the right conditions.

            Take the green iguana, for instance. Green iguanas are native to South America, some of Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. Due to their popularity as a pet, and the right environmental conditions, there are now invasive populations in Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and Puerto Rico. When visiting a pet store, one may see a small lizard and think it would make a great pet. Without doing any research, though, they might not realize that the same baby lizard can grow to 6 feet from tip of the nose to tail. If not prepared for this kind of growth, one may think the best answer is to release the lizard into the “wild”. Especially in these warmer areas, the iguana will do great! Why is it a problem? Well, the iguanas feed on lots of different creatures, including endangered tree snails, butterflies, and other native lizard and insect species.

            Let’s look at the boa constrictor, native to Central and South America, was first introduced around the year 1990 to Florida, likely released as a pet or escaped facilities during hurricanes. They start small, around a foot long, but can reach 8 to 13 feet long. This is a large snake that requires a lot of space. Why are they so damaging in the wilds of Florida? Well, they feed on native and sometimes threatened species of lizards, birds, and mammals.

            Domestic cats are an invasive species? Yes, domestic cats are considered invasive because they originate from North Africa and Southwest Asia. European settlers brought them over as pets, and their presence as pets has taken off. Cats released into the wild, also known as feral cats, are responsible for killing many native birds and mammals. One’s pet cat, if let outside unsupervised, can also end up killing.

            So how do we help limit the damage of invasive species in the wild? Responsible pet ownership. Before getting a pet, it is important to do your research. “How big will the animal get?” “Is there a special diet?” “Can I afford to take care of them as they grow?” “How long will they live?”  These are all great questions to ask when thinking of getting a pet. What if I already have cats? Bring them indoors. Having indoor cats is just like having any pet; you are being responsible. Supervise their time outside. It’s important we don’t allow our pets to roam free, or we can contribute to the feral populations, or our pets can end up killing native species. Want to learn more? Reach out to us at or send us an email at

-Alyssa Mechler, Conservation Awareness Manager


Image: A common boa constrictor's head emerges from grass.

New Animal Care Curator

Lee Richardson Zoo has named Carrie Thurman as the new Animal Care Curator.  “Carrie has the drive, dedication, and infectious enthusiasm for the zoo, for conservation, and for animal well-being that is needed to not only maintain our current level of excellence but to also keep up with the changes that will come in the future.  Her inclusive approach supports our mission-driven, values-based workplace culture” said Kristi Newland, Zoo Director.  


Native to southwest Kansas, Thurman has been with the zoo since 2016, first hired as a keeper and then promoted to Lead Keeper. As Animal Care Curator, she will lead the Animal Care Division staff in professional development as well as professional standards of care and operations, including overseeing enrichment, and operant conditioning programs.    


Thurman stated, “I’m honored to be chosen for this position. We have an excellent Animal Care Staff, and I’m excited to lead them. I know that together we will accomplish great things and continue to provide the animals with the best care possible.”


Image: Carrie Thurman, Animal Care Curator

2022 Employee of the Year

Congratulations to Jack Broderick for being recognized as the Lee Richardson Zoo's 2022 Employee of the Year!

To acknowledge their efforts and outstanding performance, Jack was nominated for this award by fellow zoo employees.

Jack is the Registrar at LRZ and is known for his problem-solving skills, being mission-driven, and always being willing to learn new things and help others.

Thank you, Jack, for your continued hard work and dedication!


Image: Jack Broderick, Registrar

2022 Employee of the Third and Fourth Quarter

Lee Richardson Zoo Employees nominate fellow coworkers for employee of the quarter each year. Victoria Ortiz was recognized as the 2022 employee of the quarter for the third quarter, she is known for her hard work and enthusiastic spirit. Jack Broderick was recognized as the 2022 employee of the quarter for the fourth quarter, he is recognized for always being a service-oriented team player. 

Images: (L) Third Quarter Employee: Victoria Ortiz (R) Fourth Quarter Employee: Jack Broderick 


Name Announcement for Giraffe Calf

After a week of voting, the results are in!  The name for the male giraffe calf born on January 26 at Lee Richardson Zoo is Miguu (pronounced me-goo).  Miguu is Swahili for legs.  Zoo staff would like to thank the over 2,500 people who voted in person, online, or by phone or email.


Names that were up for selection had been proposed by the zoo staff who care for the giraffes.  The names were selected for their relevance to the calf.  Miguu was offered as an option since giraffes are known for their long, strong legs, which they use for locomotion and protection, and calves must learn to use their legs very quickly after being born. 


In the wild, giraffe populations have decreased by 40% over the last thirty years due to poaching and habitat destruction.  Together Lee Richardson Zoo and other AZA members and their partners are working to help save giraffes through education, scientific research, fieldwork, public awareness, and action.


You can visit Mom, Dad, and Miguu during regular zoo hours.  They will be in their indoor quarters or outdoors based on the outside temperature. Public viewing inside the giraffe barn may be closed periodically to allow mom and calf privacy.

Images: Giraffe calf at LRZ stands tall inside his indoor quarters.

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