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 7PM with the drive through closing at 6PM.


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!

Lee Richardson Zoo is happy to announce that Johari, a critically endangered black rhinoceros who lives at the zoo, is pregnant. 


Ten-year-old Johari and her mate, seven-year-old Jabari, came to the zoo in 2016 on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Eastern Black Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan (SSP).  SSPs are cooperatively managed programs with goals of genetically and demographically healthy populations, the long-term sustainability of populations, and enhancing the conservation of the species in the wild. 


Staff have been monitoring Johari’s condition via periodic blood samples.  Her latest blood tests show the typical profile of a pregnant rhinoceros.  The zoo will continue to monitor the pregnancy via blood tests and work on operant conditioning for an ultrasound to provide another means of monitoring the pregnancy.  Rhinoceros gestation is 15-16 months.  Johari is estimated to be approximately half-way through the pregnancy.


Eastern black rhinos are native to eastern Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). They are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).  They are the rarest of the three remaining black rhino subspecies.  Poaching for their horn continues to be their biggest threat.  Conservation and management efforts have resulted in a slow increase in population numbers in recent years.


Black rhinos are browsers.  They use their prehensile upper lip to grab and hold leaves and branches and guide them into their mouth.  They may look big and bulky, but a black rhino can run at speeds up to 40 miles per hour.

Photo: Emily Sexson - Conservation Education Manager

Lee Richardson Zoo is happy to invite you to come meet a new resident. Brighton, a 1 ½-year-old male North American river otter, recently joined Ariel, the 17-year-old female otter who calls the zoo her home.  The young otter came from the Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo.


When you visit, Ariel is the bathing beauty, enjoying laying out in the sun or the shade depending on her mood and taking an occasional dip.  Brighton is more like the typical kid at the beach, playing with everything he can find while enjoying a splashing good time in the water every now and then.  They both enjoy a good nap during the day.  The otters can be seen in the Kansas Waters exhibit.  Current zoo hours are 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily.


Otters are a member of the Mustelid or weasel family.  Other members of the Mustelid family include skunks, badgers, weasels, minks, fishers, ferrets, and wolverines.

Photo: Emily Sexson - Conservation Education Manager

Welcome Brighton!

Johari & Jabari are Expecting!

The Cutest 150lb. Newborn You'll Ever See

By Max Lakes, Deputy Director

At Lee Richardson Zoo, we care for all the zoo animals. Like most people, we love the cuteness of newborns, and we are currently on “baby watch” with our female giraffe, Cleo. This birth will be Cleo’s second; her first baby, Kijiji, recently moved to the Oakland Zoo.

Many have heard about or watched giraffe births live on YouTube. Watching new life come into the world is a fantastic experience, and technology allows more people to watch the miracles of nature than ever before. What might not occur to us when watching an animal give birth are the amazing adaptations that protect the newborns in the wild.   

When you are born on the African savanna, you must be ready to move away from danger very soon after birth. Giraffe calves are standing up as soon as 30 minutes after delivery and can run within 24 hours after birth. To be able to stand and run so soon after birth, giraffe babies must be very developed when they are born. They are born almost six feet tall and weigh between 100 to 150 pounds. That is a big baby.

To get to be that big at birth takes time. Giraffe gestation is 15 months long. This is one of the most prolonged gestation periods of any land mammal. Only rhinos and elephants have more extended gestation periods, with rhinos being 15-16 months and elephants being the longest at 22 months.

At the end of the giraffe’s fifteen-month pregnancy, they give birth to one calf (very rarely they have two). Giraffes give birth standing up. The giraffe baby falls approximately five feet when born.  The fall serves to wake the baby up and get them going. Due to their size, their head is much closer to the ground by the time of the fall and their ossicones, which are folded over the top of their head at the time, help buffer the impact.  When you have hungry lions and hyenas around, you can’t afford to be lying around for too long, so the mother giraffe starts cleaning up the baby quickly. After the baby is clean and manages to stand, mom and baby join the giraffe tower. Giraffes live in groups called towers, not in herds.   The tower helps to provide safety to mom and baby.

The giraffe fathers are not involved directly with the

upbringing of the babies. However, they do linger around

the giraffe towers and help to provide protection.

A full-grown healthy male giraffe is a formidable

opponent that even a lion would think twice about

before attempting to attack. Being in a large group of

powerful giraffes provides even more protection for

mom and baby.

The baby giraffe will nurse from mom for the first

couple of years during which it can almost double in size.

After weaning at about two years old, the baby will start

wandering from mom and become a more independent

part of the tower. The baby, if female, will be ready to

have her own babies when she’s around four years old.

Because of the need to compete for mates, male giraffe

s are generally older, around seven years old or more,

before breeding. You must be big enough to take on the

largest males to win the right to reproduce. 

So, keep an eye out for news of the new baby giraffe

arrival. You can see those posts on Facebook and our

webpage. However, once the baby is born, we will give

mom and baby plenty of time to bond before letting them

into the outside yards. Don’t worry, though; we will keep

everyone updated through our Facebook and webpage.

Cleo the giraffe nuzzles her first calf Kijiji born in 2018.  Photo: Education Manager Emily Sexson

Zoo Updates

By Kristi Newland, Zoo Director

During the last seven weeks, the zoo has been quite a busy place, even while temporarily closed to the public due to the pandemic.  The Maintenance team has been busy preparing for and starting to deal with this year’s growing season.  They’re maintaining the facilities and equipment, working on fences, painting crosswalks, and repairing structures.  They’re also becoming familiar with the new projects – Lemur Forest, Flamingo Habitat, and the Animal Health Facility – which will be coming online later this year.  The team has begun working on the irrigation and landscaping for those areas.

Education staff has been reviewing the many biofacts that staff and volunteers use during presentations.  They’ve developed a multitude of virtual content available through the zoo’s website and Facebook page. Tongue Out Tuesday, Walk Through Wednesday, the new Zoo Pals (a zoo version of a pen pal) and other offerings have provided a way for zoo fans to stay in touch until we reopen.  A virtual summer camp, “Zoocation”, has been developed.  Details and registration will be available soon on the zoo’s website (leerichardsonzoo.org).  Staff are working on new graphics that will be part of Lemur Forest and the Flamingo Habitat.

Animal Care staff have remained focused on providing top-notch care for the zoo residents.  Some protocols have been modified to provide for the safety of those species that have shown a susceptibility to the coronavirus.  Personal protective equipment (PPE), distancing, and modified animal training schedules have all become part of keeping the animals safe.  Zoo staff are doing all of this while implementing extra sanitizing and disinfecting, social distancing, and wearing additional PPE, especially within 6 feet of one another.

Kijiji, the giraffe calf, has joined other giraffes at the Oakland Zoo.  Staff are monitoring the pregnancy of Cleo the giraffe (her second), and a possible pregnancy for Ember, the red panda.  The sheep have been sheared, and the kangaroos returned to the large yard north of the bison and elk.

During this time, staff has been planning and preparing for the zoo’s reopening.  A limited opening of the zoo is currently anticipated for Phase 3, with details to be determined.  We’re working on social distancing reminders in the form of signs (i.e., Grizzly bears are 6 ft long; stay a grizzly bear apart) and paw prints spaced 6 feet apart, as well as hand washing reminders.  There will be signs on high touch surfaces as reminders to limit touching or sanitize hands after touching.  If you forget to pocket that little bottle of sanitizer before coming to the zoo, there’s soap and water available in the public restrooms, and we’re adding hand sanitizer stations in various locations throughout the zoo.

To stay up on zoo happenings during our temporary closure, be sure to visit the zoo’s website or Facebook page.

Plastic Free July

By Julianne Werts - Conservation Education Specialist

July is a month that excites many zoos, aquariums, and other conservation-focused organizations. Every year during this month, there is a challenge and that focuses on making more sustainable choices to help the environment. This challenge is called Plastic Free July.

            The goal of this challenge is to learn more about your impact on the environment, with the main focus being single-use plastics. These are items like plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic wrapping that covers our food at the grocery store, and more. Things that we see and use every day, and often don’t even think about. While these types of items are convenient, they are also causing significant problems in our world.

            Plastic can take 500 years or more to decompose, meaning that it essentially never goes away once it is created. There are also many types of plastic that cannot be recycled. Plastic bags, cling wrap, and straws are all too thin and the wrong shape. If a plastic has food residue on it, it must go to a landfill. Then we face issues of our landfills running out of space, or wind and rain blowing these items into the rivers and oceans. So, what can we do?

            Using less plastic is one of the most effective ways to help! And that’s what Plastic Free July is all about. The online challenge offers ideas and actions that you can do in your daily life, like using a reusable water bottle, and it keeps track of your impact throughout the whole month. You can also see the impact others are having on your team and the actions they are taking. And it’s not too late to sign up!

The Lee Richardson Zoo’s team currently has 22 people from 3 different states, and as of last week, our impact includes 11 plastic straws, 24 plastic containers, 19 pieces of plastic cutlery, and 22 plastic bottles not sent to the landfill! With the points earned from teammates completing different actions, we are ranked 46 out of 190 teams. We would love for you to join our team and help us continue to increase our impact!

To learn more about Plastic Free July and join the team, you can visit https://plasticfree.ecochallenge.org/teams/lee-richardson-zoo or check the Zoo’s Facebook page.

312 E Finnup Drive

Garden City, KS 67846

  • Instagram Social Icon