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

written and created by Zoo Staff.

The Lee Richardson Zoo is currently open daily from 8AM to 5PM with the drive through closing at 4PM.


The Finnup Center for Conservation Education will be open Monday through Friday from 8AM to 5PM.

Guests may notice a few changes during their next visit.  The zoo will have two entry gates open at the archway main entrance to allow separate paths of entry and exit. 

Beginning at the entrance, and throughout the zoo’s pathways, guests will find yellow paw prints on the sidewalk spaced six feet apart as a reminder to practice social distancing from other zoo guests. 

Guests are encouraged to avoid large groups, wear masks, and to wash their hands after using high touch areas such as pop machines, water fountains, playground equipment, and interactive displays. 


The Marie Osterbuhr Aviary will remain temporarily closed. 


Thank you for your support of Lee Richardson Zoo, we look forward to having you back safely. 

LRZ is Open!

Employee Recognition

Congratulations to Jakob Stegman for being recognized as the Lee Richardson Zoo's 2020 Employee of the Year!

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

Jakob is the Facilities Manager at LRZ and is known for his problem solving skills, ability to fix pretty much anything, and helping the zoo look beautiful and run smoothly.

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

Congratulations to Madelyn Gimenez for being recognized as the Lee Richardson Zoo's Employee of the Quarter!

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

Madelyn is a Keeper at LRZ and is known for her excellent work ethic, willingness to pitch in wherever needed, and positive attitude.

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

Employee of the Quarter

Employee of the Year

Zoli, one of the siamangs residing here at the Lee Richardson Zoo, has many fans, but not many people know his incredible story.  Fourteen years ago, in the early morning of February 20th, 2007, a new life entered the world at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky.  The Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for Gibbons successfully matched siamang pair Sue Ann and Ziggy, and Sue Ann was now rearing her son, Zoli.  Everything was going well for the siamang family until tragedy struck a few months later when Zoli’s parents had both died suddenly, leaving Zoli orphaned.  At just two months old, Zoli would still have been clinging to and nursing from his mother.  Zoo staff acted quickly and began hand rearing Zoli. 

            Siamang are an endangered species.  They are arboreal, black-furred gibbons native to the forests of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.  Gibbons are also known as lesser apes or small apes.  Siamang are the largest of all gibbon species, weighing around 23 pounds; they can be twice the size of other gibbons.  Gestation for siamang is approximately seven and a half months, with a single offspring born every two or three years. 

              Siamang babies will nurse from their mothers for around two years.  Keepers at the Louisville Zoo stepped into this role, providing bottle feedings multiple times a day, every day for two years.  Staff would wear black fleece so that Zoli could climb and cling to them, just as he would his mother. While they were hand rearing Zoli, staff monitored his health and watched as he reached other milestones, which are very similar to those of a  human infant; his first call, his first time sitting up, his first time crawling, his first solid foods, and so on.  Zoli was thriving!
               That summer, Zoli was introduced to 9-week-old siamang siblings Zain and Sungai.  The brother and sister pair had been rejected by their mother at birth.  While Zain was hand-reared from birth, his sister Sungai was paired with a surrogate at another facility.  Unfortunately, the surrogate did not accept Sungai, and she rejoined her brother, and the pair joined Zoli.  Staff encouraged appropriate behavior in the three “kids”, and they soon began spending all their time together. 
         Siamang family groups usually consist of a bonded male and female pair with two to three immature offspring.  Offspring mature at about six years old and will leave their family in search of a mate, reaching sexual maturity around eight or nine years old.  After developing and growing with Zain and Sungai in Kentucky, just as he would have in the wild, Zoli was ready to leave his family group to find his mate.  In 2017, Zoli came to the Lee Richardson Zoo under recommendation from the Siamang Species Survival Plan.  In 2020 the Species Survival Plan matched Zoli with Violet, who came to the zoo from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  

          With their very distinctive call, which they use for territorial and bonding purposes, you may hear Zoli and Violet at the zoo before you see them.  Siamang move by brachiating (swinging arm over arm), under branches, flying through the air, easily moving from one platform to the next.  Watching Zoli and Violet move about their habitat is always a sight to see! Since their introduction, Zoli and Violet have been getting to know one another and are developing their relationship.  We look forward to watching the pair’s relationship continue to progress.               
        The biggest threat to all wildlife is habitat loss.  We can help siamang and other species by committing to sustainable choices.  You can help siamangs here at home by recycling products like glass, aluminum, and paper, which are made from resources found in their native rainforest habitat. Many of the paper products we buy in the United States come from trees sourced from Indonesia.  By reducing our use of these products, and finding ore sustainable options, we can protect their natural home.
          Zoli and his siblings are just one example of the struggles and amazing successes that animals and staff at facilitates accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums experience as we work towards our goal of conserving wildlife across the world.  This Saturday, February 20th, help us celebrate Zoli’s 14th birthday by visiting him at the zoo, recycling, and purchasing rainforest-friendly products.  Happy Birthday, Zoli!   

Zoli the Siamang

By Emily Sexson, Communication Specialist

Siamang Zoli swinging in his habitat at the Lee Richardson Zoo
Photo By: Emily Sexson - Communication Specialist

Lee Richardson Zoo has a new Deputy Director.  After a nationwide search, Joe Knobbe was hired to fill this key leadership role at the zoo. 


“Joe stands out as someone whose years of experience in the zoo field and whose drive can help Lee Richardson Zoo continue to pursue its mission of public engagement, conservation, education, and providing quality care for the animals at the zoo.  We’re very glad to have him as part of our team,” said Zoo Director Kristi Newland. 


Mr. Knobbe has been engaged in the zoo field for 35 years and previously worked at the San Francisco Zoo and at the St. Louis Zoo.  He’s taken an active role in conservation and the leadership of several animal management programs through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). He has mentored many zoo professionals and participated in a number of zoo construction projects over the years.  Mr. Knobbe assumed his duties at Lee Richardson Zoo on February 1, 2021.

Zoo Welcomes New Deputy Director

Ayubu the Baby Rhino

By Alyssa Mechler, Education Specialist

On January 20, Eastern Black Rhinoceros Johari gave birth to her first calf. Weighing in at 93 pounds at only four days new, the calf took the zoo by storm. He has been seen sparring with mom, snorting, and investigating anything and everything. The zoo reached out to the public to ask for their help in naming the new calf by voting for one of four names.

            The potential names were, Ayubu, a Swahili word meaning perseverance during difficult times; Faru, meaning tank, the little one is built like a tank; Mkali, meaning fierce, he showed just how fierce he was at only a few days old when he began sparring with mom and shaking his head at those around him; and Moyo, meaning heart, from the moment he arrived he stole everyone’s heart. While all four names were fitting for the rhino calf, only one could win, and Ayubu it is!

            The name Ayubu is fitting for the rhino calf as he was born during a pandemic and we are all persevering through these difficult times. It is also fitting because the black rhinos are critically endangered, and his birth is helping to preserve the species. Ayubu the rhino calf is a great ambassador for his species, the Eastern Black Rhinoceros, the rarest of the subspecies. They are critically endangered with ~600 individuals left in the wild. Ayubu is Johari and Jabari’s (mom and dad) first calf and is a part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The SSP is a population management and conservation program that works to maintain genetically diverse populations in zoos. Eventually, Ayubu will go on to another facility where he will continue to help with the genetic diversity of Eastern Black Rhinos. A rhino calf will stay with its mother for up to three years before going off on its own. We look forward to watching Ayubu grow and learn all things rhino from his mom.

Ayubu is currently inside with Johari; he is doing well and growing like a weed. While they are inside bonding, Jabari can be seen outside when the weather is nice. Be sure to watch Lee Richardson Zoo’s Facebook page for video and photo updates of Ayubu!

Black rhino calf Ayubu and mother Johari
Photo: Emily S.  Communication Specialist

Animals Give the Signals

By Kristi Newland, Zoo Director


Can an animal predict the weather?  On February 2, Groundhog Day, many people will be waiting to hear if Punxsutawney Phil (or one of the other prognosticators) sees his shadow or not.  If the shadow is seen, it’s 6 more weeks of winter.  Others believe, based on many years of observation, that if the snowshoe hare has extra-furry feet, the snowfalls for the winter will be heavy, while on the other hand, if a black bear sleeps close to the opening of his winter den, the weather won’t be too bad.  At the very base of whether or not animals can make weather predictions is the fact that animals in the wild have to deal with whatever the weather throws at them in a more basic way than we do with our houses, heaters, canned foods, refrigerators, etc.  Animals have a more intimate relationship with nature and need to be more attuned to its signals.  Animals are able to detect much more than humans with at least one of the five senses.  Animals rely on those senses to survive. 



Some animals, (elephants, cattle, etc…) can hear below the range of human hearing (infrasonic), while others (dogs, bats, dolphins, etc…) can hear above the human range (i.e. the high pitched sound of a dog whistle), otherwise known as ultrasonic.  Earthquakes, hurricanes, thunder and ocean waves produce sounds in the infrasonic range.  There were many reports of elephants and other animals heading to high ground before the tsunami hit Sri Lanka and India in 2004.  Big changes in air (barometric) and water (hydrostatic) pressure accompany various storms (i.e. hurricanes).  Sharks have been known to head for deeper water after encountering an unusual change in hydrostatic pressure.  Changes in barometric pressure have been documented as causing birds and bees to head for home. 


In those circumstances, it benefits the animal to sense the odd vibrations or unusual changes in the normal pattern of things and move away from the strange sensation or seek shelter.  Human observations and interpretations of animal behaviors have been going on for years and produced various results – Groundhog Day for one, but that’s not all animals can tell us.


“Seizure-alert” dogs are sensitive enough to warn their human companion of some types of seizures before the seizure occurs.  The cues are thought to be subtle changes in behavior or even smell that the dog picks up on.  For this to work, the dog must be very familiar with the person involved, they need to know the person under normal circumstances in order to detect the unusual cues.  While some trained behaviors may be involved in these efforts (how the dog gives the warning), being able to sense the cue is innate. 


Animal senses are amazing and whether they can predict when spring will arrive or not, they definitely know some things we don’t.  During your next visit the zoo, see what the animals are telling you.

Winter Survival

By Julianne Werts, Education Coordinator

When we think of winter, we often picture a cold day with snow on the ground. And often in this picture, there aren’t many animals around. As the season gets colder, we may see a few birds flying around or a rabbit hopping through the snow, but generally, the wildlife we see decreases. So where do all the animals go?

                There are a number of ways that wildlife will survive the winter. Many people know the term “hibernation,” which is when an animal sleeps through the colder months of the year and wakes up as the season gets warmer again. The most common species associated with hibernation is the bear. However, many other animals go through the same cycle, including bats, prairie dogs, and other rodents.

                When animals are getting ready to hibernate, they will eat a lot of extra food in order to gain more weight. The fat that is stored provides the energy they will survive off of during the winter. When they sleep, most of their body functions actually slow down, including their metabolism and oxygen use. This is how they are able to survive for so long without eating. As the season gets warmer and their food supply is available again, they will wake up and start foraging like normal.

                Reptiles, like our native box turtles and bull snakes, also go through something similar during the winter. Because they are ectothermic, or require heat from outside sources, their body temperature lowers as it gets colder. When this happens, they will often find a burrow in the ground to go to sleep. Unlike our true hibernating friends, if there is a warm day in the middle of winter, they will wake up and go on about their usual lives, then go back to sleep as it gets cold again. This process is called torpor or brumation.

                Of course, there are other animals that will leave the area, or migrate, as the temperature starts to chill. You may have seen large flocks of geese and ducks flying overhead, all going in the same direction. Many birds are not able to handle the cold very well, so they will move south, where it stays warmer throughout our winter months. A lot of songbirds have the same behavior; species like warblers, sparrows, and hummingbirds will all move to warmer parts of the world and make their way back in the spring. Many of these smaller birds prefer to travel at night. We can actually help with this migration by simply keeping our lights off during the night, which lessens the chance of birds trying to fly through closed windows because they look like open space.

                While our world looks very different in the winter, the wildlife surrounding us doesn’t simply disappear. They may move on to other areas or be sleeping right under our feet. But they always return with the warm weather! And of course, you can visit the Lee Richardson Zoo year-round and see some of your favorite winter-loving animals from all around the world!

Bobcat traversing the snow
Photo: Emily S.  Communication Specialist

312 E Finnup Drive

Garden City, KS 67846

  • Instagram Social Icon