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

written and created by Zoo Staff.

Bison Calf Makes Debut

The Zoo’s new 6-month-old bull bison calf, recently acquired from the Sandsage Bison Range through the cooperation of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, has made his debut in the Zoo’s North American Plains area.

The yet-to-be-named calf had spent the last several days since his arrival getting acclimated to his new home, his new care staff, and his future herd mates. He frequently ventured into the outdoor corral area where 15-year-old female bison “Sienna” had the opportunity to meet him through the fencing. She frequently sniffed him and rarely left the area beyond the corral. Even the Zoo’s 2 female elk were often nearby.

“The little bison was nervous when we first let him out, but quickly started navigating the yard as if he’s always lived here,” said Zookeeper Rachel Stepp. “His new herd mate Sienna hasn’t left his side since and will follow him wherever he decides to go”.

American bison are native to North America and are known to roam in herds of 200 to 2,000 individuals. They were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s but have been making a comeback in recent years with the help of zoos, sanctuaries, and parks that are home to bison herds. There are currently over 11,000 bison in the wild population.

Visit Lee Richardson Zoo to see Sienna and the new calf daily and to learn more about American bison and how we can help further conserve the species.


Image: A bison calf walking aside an adult female bison.


Lee Richardson Zoo has received the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration’s (CILC) 2020-2021 Pinnacle Award for the tenth time.  To receive the Pinnacle Award, organizations must score 95% or above for the entire year on the evaluations of their Distance Learning programs. 


Each year, content providers from around the world are recognized for their “Programs of Distinction,” and for receiving outstanding ratings on program evaluations by educators and activity directors. Recipients of this annual award represent museums, science centers, art galleries, zoos, aquariums, musicians, and authors. They stand out as demonstrating remarkable quality of educational content and exceptional skill at program delivery.


With this being the 10th year, the zoo has received the award, Lee Richardson Zoo has been inducted into the CILC’s Pinnacle Award Hall of Fame.  Jan Zanetis, Managing Director of CILC notes “The last year of operations has been an unprecedented challenge for our content providers with many schools and museums closed due to the Pandemic. CILC’s content providers not only rose to the challenge, they surmounted it.”


The zoo currently offers Distance Learning (digital interactive) programming to locations around the world, sharing up close looks at live animals, which are aligned with topics meeting national education standards.  For more information about our award-winning programs, please email us at zoo.education@gardencityks.us or by phone at 620-276-1250.  

Pinnacle Award
Hall of Fame

Image: CILC Pinnacle Hall of Fame Award

What is that?!

By Emily Sexson, Communication Specialist

The Lee Richardson Zoo is home to two sisters who sometimes have guests asking, “what kind of animal is that”?  Guesses include, rabbits, baby kangaroos, squirrels, and more. Thankfully, their habitat features a sign with the answer; the small, often bouncing, mammals sharing a space with the alpacas, are Patagonian cavy.  If you’re familiar with the zoo, their habitat is located across from Primate Forest along the pathway leading to Kansas Waters and Wild Asia.   

                Patagonian cavies are also known as Patagonian mara, Patagonian hare, or dillaby.  These relatively large rodents measure 27 – 30 inches in length with a short one to two-inch-long tail.  They weigh anywhere from 18 to 35 pounds.  The hair on their back is a dusty gray-brown which fades into their orangish-brown sides.  Their bottoms and bellies feature light, almost pure white fur. Their long ears and long limbs resemble those of a jackrabbit.  Their hind limbs are longer, larger, and more muscular than their fore limbs.  These long legs give cavies a spring in their step and their running looks similar to that of a deer.

                Patagonia refers to the region at the southern end of South America governed by Argentina and Chile.  This area includes the southern section of the Andes mountains and is bounded by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  Cavies are well adapted to the lowland forest, shrubland, and grassland habitats, feeding on plants for almost half of their day.  Like us, they are diurnal, which means they are active primarily during the day and sleep at night. 

                Like many rodent species, cavies are very social animals.  They use several vocalizations and behaviors to communicate with one another.  Short grunts and small squeaks are used during grooming or interacting with one another.   Teeth chattering and low toned grunts are sounded when they feel threatened.  In addition to their vocalizations, cavies will use scent marking to send a message.  Scent marking is used primarily between bonded pairs to mark each other and their territory.  Pairs are monogamous for life, and it is the male’s responsibility to keep up with the female wherever she goes.

                The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species lists Patagonian cavy as Near Threatened, with their population numbers decreasing.  Threats to this species include habitat loss caused by agriculture, including livestock farming and ranching, as well as over-hunting, trapping, invasive species, and diseases.   Argentina considers Patagonian cavy to be vulnerable and the species is currently residing in at least 12 protected areas with land and water protection in place.  Here in the U.S., we can help cavies, and all wildlife by ensuring the goods we purchase are made as sustainably as possible.  We can also do our part by practicing the “3 R’s” Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. 

                If you’re interested in learning more about this unique species, or seeing a Patagonian cavy in person, visit the South American Pampas portion of the zoo to visit residents “Dulce” and “Fria” on your next visit.   Helpful hint: when they’re not grazing throughout their yard, the sisters prefer to lounge around the southwest portion of the habitat relatively close to the shelter of their barn.  The zoo is currently open from 8 am to 5 pm with drive through access available from 10 am to 4 pm.  For more zoo info visit www.leerichardsonzoo.org or find us @LeeRichardsonZoo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. 


Image: Cavy "Dulce" and "Fria"