2020 has been full of extremes, and the year is only halfway over. Unfortunately, while the year has been unforgettable in an infamous sense, pandemics and quarantines don’t typically yield many opportunities to make wholesome memories.

These days, so many of us are struggling to find much-needed getaways: places where we can unwind and just take a moment to catch our breath.

Although many parts of the country are slowly reopening, it’s still hard to feel safe. The restaurant you and your family used to frequent is a bit too crowded, and something about the movie theater seems too risky.

So where can you go?

Given all of the chaos and uncertainty, now is the perfect time to recharge at Lee Richardson Zoo.

Located in Garden City, Kansas, Lee Richardson Zoo sits on 50 shady and beautiful acres. Aside from animal exhibits, the zoo also boasts impressive walking paths, picnic areas, and playgrounds for kids.

With over 300 animals, both native and exotic, the viewing opportunities may seem overwhelming. Here are some of the most interesting critters that you can’t miss!

Amur Leopard

One of the most endangered animals in the world, the Amur Leopard is found in northeastern Asia, in the boreal forests of China, Russia, and North Korea. Highly coveted on account of their beautiful coats, the World Wildlife Fund estimates that less than 90 individuals exist in the wild.

This leopard is a born climber capable of jumping 20 feet horizontally and leaping 10 feet into the air. They also have incredibly sharp claws to help them quickly reach high branches.

In 2017, the call of this big cat was recorded for the first time in the wild in a protected area in the Russian Far East.

Garden City’s Lee Richardson Zoo actively supports the research and conservation of these endangered animals, as well as that of others.

Come visit and learn how you can also help them!

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

Are you less of a fluffy animal kind of person, and more of a creepy crawler lover? If so, you’ll certainly have your needs satiated.

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is one of several invertebrates at Lee Richardson Zoo and is much more interesting than the dreaded household cockroach.

What makes them unique is their ability to emit a hissing noise through openings on their abdomens. This noise can be heard from up to 12 feet away and is meant to shock predators, giving the cockroach a chance to quickly escape. Hissing is also used during aggressive encounters between males, and during mating rituals.

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is a little shy and needs some privacy, so they can only be seen while working as animal ambassadors for educational purposes.

Fire-Bellied Toad

Found throughout much of eastern Asia, these beautiful amphibians live in a variety of habitats, from forests to meadows, to river valleys.

The bright green and black backs of these animals help them camouflage with their lush surroundings. But why are they “fire-bellied”?

When feeling threatened, the Fire-Bellied Toad rises, and sometimes flips completely over, to show off its bright red and black underside. Their colorful stomachs looked like, you guessed it, fire!

These amphibians also secrete a toxin from their skin, which when coupled with their colors can ward off many would-be dangers. Predators beware!

Similar to the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, these toads need their privacy, so can exclusively be seen working as animal ambassadors.

African Crowned Crane

Fans of aviaries are also in for a treat, with a large selection of feathered friends ready to be observed.

One particularly regal bird you can visit is the African Crowned Crane, which lives in the grasslands and wetlands of southeast Africa.

Their regal name derives from the “crown” of golden feathers on their head. However, while beautiful, it is also a coveted status symbol that has led to the poaching and trade of this majestic animal. This, along with the destruction of wetlands, has caused its numbers to decline in recent years.

The African Crowned Crane is unique in that it the only crane capable of perching in trees. This ability is thanks to their hallux, a long hind toe, which enables them to hold on to branches. They have even been observed perching on top of electricity poles!

Basilisk Lizard

Reptiles are found on every continent except Antarctica. They are covered in scales, are cold-blooded, and lay eggs.

One of many reptiles on display at Lee Richardson Zoo, the Basilisk Lizard comes from the tropical rainforests of Central America.

Their bright green color helps them blend in with the jungles they reside in, staying safe from would-be predators, such as opossums and snakes.

Nicknamed the Jesus Lizard, these amazing lizards are capable of running across water surfaces. The rapid movement of their back legs, coupled with their uniquely splayed feet, creates air pockets that prevent them from sinking.

Catch them if you can!

Staying “2020 Safe” at Lee Richardson Zoo

Okay, an awesome outdoor getaway? Check. Cool animals? Check. But what if you still have some hesitations regarding safety?

Rest assured that Garden City’s Lee Richardson Zoo is committed to keeping you and any family members safe.

Throughout the zoo, yellow paw-prints painted on the ground remind guests to stay at least six feet away from one another. Two entry gates are open to separate those entering from those exiting, and sinks and hand-sanitization stations are plentiful.

As always, visitors also have the opportunity to remain in their cars, and simply drive through the zoo. Drive-thru day passes are only $10!

For more information regarding how the zoo has successfully responded to and implemented CDC mandated guidelines, check out their website’s latest news updates.

Stay Wild

Are you ready to finally enjoy that awesome summer excursion you so desperately need? Take a look at the zoo map and begin planning your trip to Lee Richardson Zoo. With over 300 different species to see and endless other activities, it may just be exactly what the doctor ordered!

Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau

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