Dear Zoo Friends,
The Sacramento Zoo hopes you and your family are healthy and safe. Although the zoo has been closed since March 14, there is a flurry of activity each day at the zoo. With over half a million guests visiting the zoo each year, Sacramento Zoo is the most attended cultural non-profit facility within the region. Our unique situation compared to many businesses and organizations is that throughout this closure, we still have nearly 500 animals to care for on a daily basis. Our operations are focused on the health and care of the animals and staff while maintaining our physical facilities. These daily activities have been modified from what would be considered standard procedure. Each morning a small, but mighty core team meets outdoors with proper social distancing to discuss the goals and objectives for the day. Break rooms for employees are now scattered throughout the zoo to avoid congregations.
The daily care for our great apes has changed slightly during our closure. Behind the habitats for the orangutans and chimpanzee are a series of indoor bedrooms. These areas are furnished with hammocks, swings and various materials such as hay, burlap sacks, and sheets to be used as bedding for the apes.
Primate keepers normally wear protective gear and have a regular disinfection schedule of the animal areas to prevent potential disease transmission between themselves or the other primates, but now have increased the amount of protective equipment and the scope of disinfection. Keepers wear masks and gloves when preparing diets, cleaning animal areas, and when in close proximity to the primates. Staff are also frequently disinfecting common surfaces that they come in contact with.
The keepers interact with the apes with a safety barrier between them and are never in the same space as the animal. The apes have learned to present different body parts up to the barrier where the keepers and veterinarians can safely assess their health and welfare on a daily basis. Keepers will ask for the ape to present their ear up to the mesh barrier and allow the keepers to insert an ear thermometer to take their temperature. Another behavior used for monitoring health is asking the ape to present their chest to the mesh and allow the veterinarian to listen to their breathing with a stethoscope. This trust-building process focuses on positive reinforcement, meaning the apes get treats for voluntarily participating in these training sessions. It ultimately shows the commitment of our staff and the incredible relationship they have with these apes.
Many of our animals are quite used to guests visiting the zoo daily. Several of our parrots enjoy interacting with our visitors. The chimpanzees will sometimes look at people through the glass at their habitat. Just who is watching who? Our female lion will sometimes playfully stalk our guests and rush up to the glass to surprise them. When watching this, I’m always thankful that the glass is more than an inch thick! Interacting with our guests is an enriching experience for many of our animals, and I think they must miss zoo visitors just like we do.
We look forward to welcoming all of you back as soon as possible. I will continue to update you on a weekly basis with some of the zoo’s activities. For more regular updates, please follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We continually post uplifting, informative and educational content providing our followers with a virtual visit to the zoo while you are at home.
Finally, if you wish to assist the animals during these unprecedented times, please consider a donation to the zoo’s Emergency Relief Fund.