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

written and created by Zoo Staff.

Due to the presence of a strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in central Kansas, confirmed by the Kansas Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Lee Richardson Zoo is closing the outdoor walk-through aviary flight to public access until further notice.   While most of the zoo birds are still in their off-exhibit, temperature-controlled winter home, this step helps protect the birds that are in the flight.


HPAI is primarily carried by birds, mainly migratory waterfowl.  Although it is a zoonotic disease, according to the CDC, avian influenza (bird flu) does not spread easily from animals to humans.  It can be dangerous for some of the zoo animals, which is why Lee Richardson Zoo is implementing its HPAI response plan to protect the animals, staff, and guests.  Staff will be taking other steps in conjunction with the closure (i.e., wearing personal protective equipment while caring for the birds, etc.). Once the threat has subsided, the flight will be reopened.


For more information on avian influenza in Kansas, please visit the Kansas Department of Agriculture website (www.agriculture.ks.gov).


HPAI Awareness

Image: Ruddy Duck in aviary pond.

Bear Aware

By: Emily Sexson - Communication Specialist

Bear Awareness Week is celebrated annually during the third week of May.  While extremely rare in Kansas today, American black bears were once common throughout the state.  In the late 1800s, black bears were extirpated (humans removed them, causing a local extinction) from Kansas; however, they are still present in the surrounding states of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Colorado.  Occasionally Kansans may come across a transient black bear in search of food in the southern corners of the state.


For your safety, it is important to be aware of the potentially dangerous wildlife you may come across when you are out in nature.  If you do happen upon a black bear, it is important to remain calm and not attempt to run away or climb trees to escape.  If possible, back away from the bear; if the bear starts towards you, make yourself appear and sound BIG, wave your arms, and shout.  If attacked, immediately defend yourself and fight back as best as you can.


There are eight species of bear living in the world today, sun bear, sloth bear, spectacled bear, American black bear, Asian black bear, brown bear, polar bear, and giant panda.  Bears are mammals of the Ursidae family, and they are widespread throughout the world, living in a variety of habitats.  The closest relatives to bears are mustelids (skunks, weasels, raccoons), pinnipeds (seals), and canids (dogs, foxes, wolves).  While polar bears are mostly carnivorous, the giant panda’s diet consists primarily of bamboo.  The remaining six species are omnivorous, meaning they eat a variety of both plant and animal matter.


Bears are plantigrade, meaning they distribute their weight towards their hind feet, giving them their lumbering walk and the ability to stand or walk on their hind feet for short distances.  This stance also allows them to take off in short bursts of speed.  Their claws allow them to dig and climb, and their paws are flexible enough to grasp onto items such as fruit and leaves.


Because of these specialized adaptations and many more, the bear does not have many predators outside of humans.  Bears are often considered nuisance animals because they can destroy crops, and bears will attack humans in response to being startled, in defense of their young or food, or even for predatory purposes.  While bears are primarily solitary animals and avoid humans whenever possible, they may also have chance encounters with people when they’re in search of food.


Bears are hunted for sport, food, and folk medicine.  For centuries humans have also captured bears for entertainment purposes.  They have been “trained to dance” and were used in fighting matches known as bear “baiting” against dogs since the 16th century.  “Dancing” bears are wild bears captured when young; often, the mother bear is killed in the process.  Often the cub is declawed, several teeth are removed, and a metal ring is inserted in its nose.  They are then taught to dance by being placed on a metal platform that is above burning logs.  As the metal becomes too hot, the bear is pulled up on two legs by the nose ring and begins picking up and alternating its hind feet off the metal to prevent being burned, giving the appearance of “dancing”.  This cruel practice continues today in several Asia and European countries.


The Lee Richardson Zoo is currently home to “Namba”, a sloth bear.  Namba is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Sloth Bear Species Survival Plan, helping ensure a future for sloth bears in the wild.  Sloth bears are native to southern Asia and are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.  While sloth bears are one of the species used in bear “dancing”, they are threatened primarily by habitat loss and degradation.  Celebrate Bear Awareness Week by visiting Namba in “Wild Asia” at the zoo, and be sure to check out Wildlife SOS – Saving India’s Wildlife at www.wildlifesos.org to learn more about how you can help sloth bear populations recover.


Image: Sloth bear "Namba"

Employee Recognition

Please join us in congratulating John Anderson as the Lee Richardson Zoo's Employee of the Quarter for the first quarter of 2022.

John received nominations from his coworkers for going above and beyond in his role as a Zoo Keeper here at the zoo.

John is known for his positive attitude, his passion for the animals in his care, and for supporting his coworkers whenever possible.

Thank you John for everything you do! Congratulations!