Philadelphia-area zoos are using technology to keep people connected to animals while the zoos themselves are closed to the public down amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Philadelphia Zoo, for instance, is offering an insider’s look at operations through a #PhillyZooAt2 Facebook Live series, which allows viewers to virtually meet and interact with animals and staff at 2 p.m. every weekday.
The Cape May County Park and Zoo, which is normally open 364 days a year, since Wednesday has been posting live daily lessons for its Facebook followers, and will do so on weekdays as long as the zoo is closed, officials said. The first lesson featuring two singing siamang apes was a smash hit with viewers.
“This was awesome! The singing was amazing. Does someone teach them the song or they make it up on their own? How do they know when it’s 11:30 a.m. to start singing?” wrote Tara Voss Noriega, one of the hundreds of people who left messages on the zoo’s Facebook page. The lessons are also posted on the Cape May County Government’s zoo website.
At the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, the zoo has been broadcasting “Zoo School Live!” through Facebook. The program, which begins at 11 a.m. and runs about 20 minutes each weekday, features the zoo’s education team presenting a lesson along with an animal from the zoo’s ambassador program. Viewers can post questions to be answered live during the stream.
Elmwood Park Zoo’s online educational offerings also include “Bubby’s Club,” named for the zoo’s bison mascot. “Bubby’s Club” features browser-based games that task children with identifying animal sounds and finding the creatures that use camouflage to disappear in their environment. Visitors can also watch videos and read through books selected by Bubby for his book club.
“Education has always been the cornerstone of Elmwood Park Zoo — it’s our first consideration in all our endeavors” said Jennifer Conti, Elmwood Park Zoo’s development director. “Our commitment to educate and engage with the community remains true even now, and we hope families can use or educational resources as so many homes become schools."
The shutdown has been hard on the Norristown zoo, which saw its visitors grow from 114,000 in 2011 to 700,000 last year. The zoo has started a financial drive to offset losses from the shutdown.
Closed zoos and aquariums in other parts of the country are also using the web to connect humans and beast in the time of Corona.
Possibly leading the herd is the San Diego Zoo, which last week posted 11 webcams featuring tigers, elephants, giraffes, and multiple species of birds, bears, and primates.