Zoo closed? No problem — see the animals via the internet

The Brookfield and Lincoln Park zoos, closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, are using livestreaming to bring the animals and demonstrations to the public.

SHARE Zoo closed? No problem — see the animals via the internet
Brookfield Zoo South Gate entrance.

Brookfield Zoo’s South Gate entrance.

Chicago Zoological Society

After temporarily closing due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Brookfield Zoo is bringing the zoo to the homes of thousands of curious and engaged viewers.

“What we are offering people is an opportunity to see what’s going on at the zoo and to learn about some of the fascinating things connected to the animals that are starring in the program of the day,” said Andre Copeland, manager of the Interpretive Services Department at the Brookfield Zoo.

Anyone who wants to learn about animal adaptations, entertainment, care and welfare can go to the Brookfield Zoo’s Facebook page at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday to watch livestreamed segments on these topics and more. Viewers can also ask questions and get answers immediately through the site.

“We wanted to do this so that way people would have something positive to focus on, especially peoplewho are home with their children,” Copeland said.

The virtual zoo started March 16. One segment titled “Bringing The Zoo To You: Binturongs & Prehensile Tails” had 448,400 views, 1,800 comments and 12,000 reactions on Facebook in three days.

“The staff really enjoy it and I think the response that we’ve gotten from our membership and from the public has been fantastic,” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal programs for the zoo.

Those watching are calling the livestreams a “science lesson at home,” something appreciated by families educating and entertaining their children at home since schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important that we work to make sure that everyone knows that we’re still here,” Zeigler said.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is also providing virtual tours, demonstrations with animals and chats with educators on its Facebook page and in Instagram stories.

“With the current closure, we have increased the amount of livestreams, tours and behind-the-scenes photos from our dedicated animal care staff,” said Megan Ross, director of the Lincoln Park Zoo.

“It is a core value of the zoo that we remain as free and accessible as possible, even despite the current situation,” Ross said in an email Friday.

Brookfield Zoo’s Copeland said many staff are working from home, with only personnel such as veterinarians and animal welfare staff allowed inside.

“Our staff work with the animals every day,” Zeigler said. “The only difference is we’re not concerned about trying to get an exhibit or an environment open on time.”

Museums like the Shedd Aquarium, which announced an extended closure until April 20, and the Art Institute of Chicago are also creating virtual tours on their websites and social media platforms.

“We still have a job to do, which is to care for our animals and provide them the best welfare possible,” Zeigler said. “But in the process of doing that we want to continue the education of … the public and making them aware of the world around them.”

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