There are about three thousand animals at the Denver Zoo. It takes about one million dollars a month to care for them. “About 65% of our revenue comes from people coming to visit the zoo… that was obviously a bit hit for us, thinking about ‘how are we going to manage this?’” said Brian Aucone, the Senior Vice President for Animal Sciences at the Denver Zoo. He’s talking about how Covid-19 has affected one of the zoo’s busiest times of the year. He continues, “we’ve never had to think about closing for a long time period like this in our 125-year history.”
The Denver Zoo During COVID-19
See how some of Denver Zoo's 3,000 animals are coping during COVID-19.
Brian stresses the most important thing zoo leadership considered was the safety of staff while still maintaining their high quality animal care.
Over at the Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit, three elephant keepers are working with three male elephants. The keepers make gestures with their arms and bodies, and the elephants respond by bowing their heads, backing up, and turning to different sides. Lauren Cahill is one of the elephant keepers. “It helps to keep them mentally stimulated but also a lot of those behaviors are natural behaviors that we would already see them do, so it’s good exercise for them.” She says that all three elephants have definitely noticed a difference at the zoo, especially 11-year-old Chuck. “He seems to be the one that really looks forward to cheers from the crowd and likes to show off during demonstrations.”
Brian adds that one of the giraffes has definitely noticed as well, and likes to come say ‘Hi’ and see what people are doing as they walk past. The Denver Zoo has also taken this down time as an opportunity to give some animals a new experience. Keepers took a flock of flamingos on a stroll and let Pele the armadillo play in blossoming lilies at Giraffe Meadow.
If you’re hoping to visit the Zoo soon, you may be in luck. Brian says they’re hopeful they may be able to open towards the end of May or early June. “We’ll do a one-way path probably, we’re going to make sure that we only let enough guests in at a time so that everybody can maintain social distancing. We’ll be doing a whole lot of cleaning.”
At the end of the day he says their goal is to connect the community with wildlife, which they’ve been able to do over social media, especially Facebook. “We look forward to seeing people back at the zoo, hopefully soon.”
For the latest updates, visit: denverzoo.org.