Humans aren't the only ones missing out on social interaction during this COVID-19 shutdown.
Miller Park Zoo superintendent Jay Tetzloff said some of the zoo's more social animals, including primates and goats, miss all the visitors. Others, he said, probably don't notice the difference.
“It’s kind of like our winter where they don’t see as many people, but when someone walks by it catches their attention,” Tetzloff said. “They are still getting their care, they are still getting their enrichment. A lot of them probably don’t even realize something is happening right now.”
He said zookeeper staff is using this downtime to mix things up, such as changing feeding times to keep the animals engaged.
“We want to stimulate our animals physically and mentally, so right now we are able to do the mental piece of, ‘You don’t normally do this, what’s going on,’ and make them think through the process,” Tetzloff explained. “I think that’s enriching to our animals and to our zookeepers as well.”
Tetzloff added the zoo isn't quite letting its animals roam free as some zoos have done, but they are giving them more artificial toys like boomer balls and piñatas they normally wouldn't display when they strive to create more natural settings when the public is around.
“It has freed up what the zookeepers are doing and how they are doing it because there are no guests to work around,” Tetzloff said. “It’s fun to experiment and it’s enriching for the animals to do something at a different time.”
Tetzloff said the zoo has also been posting daily videos on Facebook to show how all of its animals are doing during the shutdown.
Tetzloff said zookeeper staffs have split to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, and they are the only ones working at the zoo now, while those on a seasonal schedule have had some hours trimmed.
There’s also no support staff working at the zoo as the main entrance and gift shop remain closed until further notice.
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