Guests Are The Entertainment!

"For a lot of our animals, having the ability to interact with guests is actually extremely important. Even for primates to be able to play with kids through the glass, they are missing out on a lot of enrichment. Guests keep a lot of the monkeys entertained. I watch our guests all day long show our marmosets and capuchins selfie cameras and they LOVE to see their reflection. Guests will also show videos on their phones to animals and the monkeys totally enjoy it.

We have a rescue cockatoo named Row who sings “row row row your boat” to guests. When little kids dance and sing it to her, she gets really excited and feeds off their energy. So do our other cockatoos on exhibit. But now without guests to show off for, now and then when it’s quiet we’ll hear her start 'row row row...' and then she stop and huffs a bit and gets really quiet and sad because she has no one to sing to. Some of our animals REALLY miss having kids to show off for.

You also have to remember that animals in zoos for the most park have grown up totally accustomed to being around people 24/7. They’re not wild animals at all really. They’ve grown up in a very different social dynamic. Quite a few animals get noticeably depressed in the winter months every year when we have few guests, and then perk up in the spring when we get busy."

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"I’m on day 25 of working at a closed zoo. I work with great apes, and their behavior has changed a bit. They are generally very interactive with the public, so they are seeking even more attention than usual from us.

Some of them were suspicious at first of the overwhelming silence outside now. They were climbing up high and scanning the area looking for everyone."

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Routine Is Important

"Most of our animals are happy as long as we can keep their routines, feeding times etc. For some they need a little extra. We do public encounters with our koalas, wombats and snakes among others so we spend an hour or so a day cuddling and handling these animals to keep them happy. A few of our koalas really fret if they don't get their cuddles. Otherwise, we just try to continue to spend time with animals that are expecting human interaction and of course we can take things for walks around the place like I'm sure you've seen at other zoos. Our wombats love a run and sniff, dingoes as well."

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"Our giraffes have gotten a bit suspicious without the guests being around. It seems to be really spooking them. The gorillas are happy though as they don't really like the guests so they are spending way more time outside which is nice To keep routine, the zoo is running extra announcements over the loud speakers aside from the usual to keep the animals used to the sound of the speakers."

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This Is Affecting Them Too

"My girlfriend is a zookeeper and animal behaviorist. She says their animals are becoming stressed. One of their African Grey birds has been plucking his own feathers. She also mentioned that because they can’t touch many of the animals due to the virus potentially spreading to another zookeeper, many of the animals are looking and acting depressive, not eating well, etc."

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"One of our emus loves everyone and makes friends with any new keepers who visit him, and so by extension loves having guests around. With the zoo being closed, he became quite morose for a few days, not acting anything like his usually happy self, because all the new friends he makes every day were gone. So his keepers began asking people from other departments to stop by, take pictures, point him out, basically act like he's the center of attention. The hilarious little diva has been loving it."

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Little Things Help

"In our local zoo the apes started to miss the visitors so they brought in an artist in who is now just painting in the empty monkey house so the apes have someone to watch."

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"The more social animals are seemed to struggling with the lack of social interactions. You can definitely tell they miss all the attention, people, motion, etc. The shy, quieter ones have come out a bit more, hang out more upfront. But even they seem to miss watching, even if it at a distance, all the people and motion and go go go. At our zoo, the staff is trying to use what free time we have to visit the animals that are missing everyone. It is nice to be able to take a break in all the chaos and enjoy them, but it's hard seeing the ones that need the social interaction struggle with the lack of visitors. If you are able to help your local zoo, even commenting or sharing their videos, pictures if you can't donate, please do. As much as we enjoy being able to zoom through our zoos and aquariums without having to be cautious of visitors, it's damn eerie with no people in the way! The animals miss you!"

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"Well I'm currently stuck at home for the time being, but I've been in touch with some coworkers. Ultimately, the changes in behavior vary depending on how conscious each animal was of the guests to begin with, so for many there isn't too much change. Most of our exhibits are open during the winter when no one regularly visits so a lot of them are used to periods where guests don't arrive, just not at this time of year. I'm sure our Orangutans and some other apes have noticed because they love to people watch and interact with the guests but they are used to slowing periods already. As for who is affected the most, I would say the geese around the zoo are probably the most upset by the change since there aren't any scraps around to steal.

That said, while our animals are still doing well, the biggest thing to worry about right now is funding. For many zoos, this time of year is critical for making money that will go to feed and supply our animals with the care they need for the year to come. With these closings, many zoos are likely to be struggling, especially if this continues. Meanwhile, many zoos are trying to find ways to interact and inform guests even still during this crisis. I recommend everyone takes the time to check out their local zoo to see what streams or activities are being made available and please make sure to donate if you can. A donation at a time like this can really help our animals."

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Some Are Greatly Benefiting

"I'm an aquarium keeper, and I've certainly noticed a change. Fish are not as stressed as they used to be, as there are no longer children stomping around and banging on glass screaming 'NEMO, NEMO, ITS NEMO' at every clown fish. We brought some of our younger penguins down to let them watch the fish, and they were intrigued but confused as to why they couldn't catch them through the glass. Our octopus has become much more friendly as well, and instead of hiding all day from people, enjoys playing with small baby toys or solving food puzzles. It's been nice. I wish there were guidelines people had to sign to behave at zoos before entering, but at the same time, they are the lifeline we so desperately need to keep functioning."

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"Most of our animals are more relaxed than they are with big crowds, or are acting mostly like they usually do. We have 2 bears that like to people watch, so they're definitely missing that source of entertainment, but are otherwise pretty normal. The biggest difference is that our pair of bald eagles mated for the first time in the decade that they've been housed together. We don't intentionally breed our animals, so there isn't a good nesting spot in their enclosure but they just scraped out a divot and laid 2 eggs in it! However, neither are incubating the eggs, and we don't have breeding permits for them so we can't keep the eggs. Very unpopular with our visitors. The geese that nest on the property are also getting extra territorial and threatening us keepers a lot more."

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