Zookeepers Share How Animals Are Reacting To The Lack Of Visitors
Staying home in quarantine with your loved ones feels like living in a zoo now and then. Nobody said it’d be easy. Meanwhile, the real zoos out there have closed their doors to visitors. And that means that porcupines, cheetahs, rhinos, and all the bestest boys and girls are having no proper social life.
Are they going mad just like we are? Someone on Reddit was wondering, so they asked zookeepers: "how are the animals acting differently now that there are no visitors to the zoo?" The inquiry posted on r/AskReddit was upvoted 73.5K times, proving it's something people are genuinely interested in. Let’s see what the zoo workers have to say right below.
I work with a lot of geriatric animals at the zoo so it's not surprising that they have become a lot more relaxed since we closed to the public. Ex. Our artic fox spends a lot more of his time basking in the sun instead of spending time in his back holding area trying to avoid screaming children...
Control your children at the zoo please...
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 everyday 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
Our city zoo is closed for visitors. However all the routine feeding activities are in place. Looks like some animals found it weird that there are no people around. The other day a fully grown white tiger started jumping like a puppy when he saw a few of us after two weeks of solitude.. that was a scene!
Bored Panda contacted Rebecca Blanchard, the media manager at Zoological Society of London, to find out how life in London Zoo looks different now during the quarantine. The ZSL London Zoo closed to the public on 21 March for the first time since World War Two. The staff is now sending packages of perishable food from its Terrace Restaurant to nearby hospitals, and its car park is now open to NHS workers.
Rebecca explained that zookeepers aren’t able to work from home: “our 18,000 animals all need feeding and looking after every single day, no matter what’s happening in the rest of the world.” The staff is now cycling to work and live in the repurposed Zoo lodges, which have previously been home to visitors experiencing an overnight stay at the Zoo.
Our pandas are finally banging.
I'm an aquarium keeper, and I've certainly noticed a change. Fish are not as stressed as they use to be, as there are no longer children stomping around and banging on glass screaming "NEMO, NEMO, ITS NEMO" at every clownfish. 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. Its 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.
Our gorillas miss the people watching so they get a tv with movies set up for them, plus lots of extra enrichment
The London Zoo staff is working hard to make sure life is as normal as possible for the animals and their routines are maintained. “Like always, Zookeepers have been dedicating their time to caring for the animals—feeding, cleaning, carrying out daily training,” said Rebecca.
The zookeepers need to think up fun and creative new activities to keep animals stimulated. And some animals even get a chance to have a stroll outside the Zoo! “Where safely possible, we take animals like the llamas and Bactrian camels on their walks around the Zoo.”
Due to temporary staff cuts, they no longer have the people to regularly walk the wombats. Some of the wombats are holding the keepers personally responsible. Imagine having a 20 kg chunk of muscle with big rodent teeth mad at you.
A lot of the animals have noticed! We compare it to having 300 channels of cable TV to suddenly 10 channels. The apes, cats, and birds probably notice the most and get excited when any of us walk by. We actually have our firm instructions to take a regular walk around our big cat area because one of the snow leopards is sad from the lack of people calling him handsome daily.
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, every 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.
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. We are in a much larger park, and wild animals wander in all the time, but always scatter when the crowds roll in. Now, there’s bucks just walking around, raccoons and foxes out in the middle of the day. And the squirrels... my god, the squirrels.
I work with the ambassador animals, so they are animals that are very used to the public. Pretty much like what everyone else has said, the animals are mostly confused that there aren't any people. Our petting zoo animals in particular are super needy. The second they see or hear us they all come running over and start crying for attention. We're trying to give all the animals as much attention as possible, but we're down to a bare bones crew, so it's not as much as we would like.
What I wanted to add, though, because I think it's incredibly interesting, is that we are collecting fecal samples from some of the animals to be tested for cortisol levels, which is a pretty good indicator of stress levels. That way, when guests come back, we can take samples for comparison to see how much guests impact stress.
I think its really cool that we're taking this opportunity to see what we can learn about how guests impact the animals, and to see if there are potentially things we can do even better to improve the lives of the animals in our care. We were really hoping to do some behavioral studies too about things like activity levels, amount of the enclosure being utilized, etc. that are also important considerations for their welfare, but unfortunately we just don't have the time or staffing.
I don’t work at a zoo, but the horse farm I manage the horses won’t leave me alone while I’m in their pastures. Normally they’ll come up to say hi and get a nose kiss, but now I can’t get anything done cause they want all of my attention.
At my zoo, the capuchins can't have bamboo sticks because they stab it through the bars at guests. Guess who is now free to stab as much as they want now?
Bird keeper here: the penguins weren’t sure it was really feeding time if no one was watching them... they’re a little bit exhibitionists. (Especially Hubig/Ocio. They’ve been caught going at it in front of the windows during public hours and then basically avoiding each other when we’re closed...) After a few days they adjusted.
However the parrots are demanding alllll the snuggles and attention, but heaven forbid one sees you snuggle someone else even if they JUST had their turn. So the macaws get to go on individual walks and get snuggles elsewhere so my ears don’t start bleeding from the screaming.
The wolves don't really have any change in behavior, they get enough interaction from us handlers when we take them for walks or brush them or sit in their enclosure to chill. Hopefully we can get private tours up and running soon so we can have a steady flow of donations. It goes to the good boys and girls.
I work at a very well known and heavily visited zoo. I work with ambassador animals and it’s nice to get a chance to take animals to areas of the zoo they wouldn’t normally get a chance to go to because of traffic etc. BUT, the free ranging geese man.... they are getting mean and territorial. Literal bridge trolls. They might have the hardest time adjusting when all the people come back and they can’t control every pathway!
Horse trainer/Barn manager here. My farm has 46 horses, about half are privately owned and boarded with us. Like most farms across the country we are completely shut down to all but essential staff. The horses are mostly pretty happy to eat, hang out, and do horse things. We keep our horses turned out 24/7, which helps them remain healthy, happy, moving, and socializing. They are starting to lose muscling at this point, with being worked/ridden. Months or years of conditioning just disappearing by the day. But it will come back once they are all in work again. But I can tell that they are missing human interaction. My personal riding horse was giving me the cold shoulder yesterday, probably because of the lack of attention. I have been trying to give the boarded horses extra attention, I am sure their owners are missing them terribly right now. They all seem to lean in a little more when I brush them these days.
Depends on the species and even the individual animal. The kangaroos and wallabies who live in our walkthrough enclosure are loving the free roaming throughout the day and not having to stay off the paths, this is making finding them more difficult as they are moving away from there "normal" rest spots. This goes for all animals in interactive enclosures actually. Some of the birds are missing the attention. The wild ravens and seagulls are a bit upset about the lack of easy to steal food. The elephants are enjoying being able to come out for walks at anytime during the day as opposed to in the morning before opening.
In our local zoo the apes started to miss the visitors so they brought in an artist in who's now just painting in the empty monkey house so the apes have someone to watch. They could tell they missed the visitors because they became very bored and are much more excited about the keepers than usual; apparently they watch the visitors as much as the other way around. The keepers now have to pay them more attention to and they also do stuff like hide food for them as a game Also: sorry for the confusion, I am not a Zookeeper myself but I live close by the zoo and it was in the local news and such
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.
I am an animal conservationist and work daily in a closed zoo. We observed animals at our zoo are going out more, instead of willowing in their covered homes. It seems the less attention on them has caused unusual but good behavior. We've recorded that they consume more food than usual. Oh, and they screw more
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.
I’ve been watching the Taronga Zoo cams and the seals definitely keep trying to look through the glass for people while the tigers will pace for 40 minutes straight in front of the viewing window.
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 hour 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.
Finally a thread I can answer!
Not a whole lot of change, but animals definitely missing out some enrichment of seeing guests, especially the otters that follow the kids in the glass under water. Takin, Maned wolves, bison, gibbons, BoPs, Lions, etc all are about the same. Some of our animals that are skittish have been standing closer to the fence where guests usually are (zebras, gazelle) which is nice.
It's kinda this weird balance of being both more and less stressed. On the one side, I don't have to worry about keeper talks or BTS tours and I have more time to get everything done and spend more time with animals. On the other side we're skeleton crewed and there's less of us to care for the whole zoo so I'm working a lot more in areas I don't usually cover as often.
There's one kangaroo that still tries to box me while the emu is shifting 🙄 The one peacock still really doesn't like taking his medications of course 🤷♂️
I have noticed that the crows in the city are behaving a bit differently as well and are being a lot braver lol
I am a full-time zookeeper and it’s been difficult since we had to lay off all our seasonal/part time help. More work for those of us still there, but the animals are all still getting top-notch care. We’ve been able to take them out to new places they don’t get to when guests are around. Like taking our porcupine to the manatee building and walking a cheetah past the rhinos. I think it’s fun for them, but I haven’t seen any animals acting differently.
The parrots miss the crowds. They love flirting with the guests and now they’re demanding a lot more attention from us.
The tigers are more relaxed because we have been able to do a lot more fun stuff.
The fish are a lot more needy surprisingly. Lol
Most of our animals are more relaxed then 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.
As a zookeeper coordinator I’ve been working at the now closed zoo almost every day for the past month. Animals that are free roaming (peacocks, iguanas) are more active, and follow keepers around like they usually do with visitors. Most of the others don’t show much change in behavior. Although birds like swans and flamingos are using the edges of their habitats more.
I work with birds at my zoo, and they are actually displaying so many more natural behaviors than they normally do! They are much more comfortable just being birds with less people around. They don't have to worry about getting spooked, or stepped on, or screamed at. It's kind of a really cool thing to witness first hand!! I expect we might make more babies than a normal year, so that could be a bit of good news!
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