LA Zoo reopens this week. How were animals faring without human visitors?

Hosted by

Hand sanitizer dispensers are placed throughout the LA Zoo, which has reopened after more than five months of closure due to coronavirus. Photo credit: Jamie Pham

The Los Angeles Zoo reopened on August 26 after being shut down since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Precautions are in place. There’s a limit of 1200 visitors per day. Guests and staff must wear masks. Some indoor exhibits are closed. 

Beth Schaefer, Director of Animal Programs at the Los Angeles Zoo, says that pre-pandemic, about 4,000 people would visit the zoo on weekdays, and more than 10,000 on weekends. Schaefer says the new limit of 1,200 is to ensure the safety of visitors, staff, and animals.


By the flamingos, a sign reminds visitors to practice social distancing and wear face masks. Photo credit: Jamie Pham

She says that many of the animals noticed the lack of guests at the zoo.

That includes Ranger, an older black bear: “[Pre-pandemic] he really seemed to pay very little attention to what anybody outside of his space was doing. And now he would hear us or just see us and come over and be smelling and looking at us. It was just really interesting to see him actually pay attention.”


A female Western Lowland Gorilla, Angela, riding on the back of her mother, N'djia, at the LA Zoo. Photo credit: Jamie Pham

Some gorillas at the zoo, including Evelyn, would watch and interact with guests before the pandemic. After the zoo closed down, she was forced to spend more time with the other gorillas.


A male meerkat with pups at the LA Zoo. Photo credit: Jamie Pham

Schaefer says baby meerkats were born while the zoo was closed, and staff were wondering whether they would be scared of visitors once the zoo reopened. 

She says so far, they’ve been taking it all in stride. 


A sign reminds visitors to keep six feet — the length of a komodo dragon — apart. Photo credit: Jamie Pham

Schaefer says that in order to keep the animals safe, the zoo has strict safety protocols for workers. That includes wearing personal protective equipment around animals, such as masks and gloves, and having to change into uniforms at work to reduce possible contamination. 

To keep animals safe from visitors, zoo staff have adjusted some viewing areas in order to keep people away from them. 


The LA Zoo is now open again — with precautions for visitors. Photo credit: Jamie Pham

— Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Angie Perrin

Credits

Guest:
Beth Schaefer - General Curator and Director of Animal Care at the Los Angeles Zoo

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin, Kathryn Barnes