Zookeepers Are Sharing How Animals Are Acting Differently Now That There Aren’t Any Zoo Visitors


“Not a zookeeper but I hear the lions alot more from my house now. Weirdly reassuring to wake up to and realize the world is still going on.”—mallowglubs 


“My girlfriend is a zookeeper and animal behaviorist. She says their animals are becoming stressed. One of their African Grey birds has been plucking his own feathers. She also mentioned that because they can’t touch many of the animals due to the virus potentially spreading to another zookeeper, many of the animals are looking and acting depressive, not eating well, etc.”—BanditRecon


“For a lot of our animals, having the ability to interact with guests is actually extremely important. Even for primates to be able to play with kids through the glass, they are missing out on a lot of enrichment. Guests keep a lot of the monkeys entertained. I watch our guests all day long show our marmosets and capuchins selfie cameras and they LOVE to see their reflection. Guests will also show videos on their phones to animals and the monkeys totally enjoy it. We have a rescue cockatoo named Row who sings “row row row your boat” to guests.

When little kids dance and sing it to her, she gets really excited and feeds off their energy. So do our other cockatoos on exhibit. But now without guests to show off for, every now and then when it’s quiet we’ll hear her start “row row row…” and then she stops and huffs a bit and gets really quiet and sad because she has no one to sing to. Some of our animals REALLY miss having kids to show off for. You also have to remember that animals in zoos for the most park have grown up totally accustomed to being around people 24/7. They’re not wild animals at all really. They’ve grown up in a very different social dynamic. Quite a few animals get noticeably depressed in the winter months every year when we have few guests, and then perk up in the spring when we get busy.”—Frogchix08 


“The two pygmy hippos, six bison, giant anteater, and lowland tapir I took care of (I’m temporarily laid off) didn’t have any change in behavior.”—Chegang


“The pandas could finally get it on…ten years they have been waiting for people to leave them alone.”—Boefixepa763


“I’m an aquarium keeper, and I’ve certainly noticed a change. Fish are not as stressed as they use to be, as there are no longer children stomping around and banging on glass screaming “NEMO, NEMO, ITS NEMO” at every clownfish. We brought some of our younger penguins down to let them watch the fish, and they were intrigued but confused as to why they couldn’t catch them through the glass. Our octopus has become much more friendly as well, and instead of hiding all day from people, enjoys playing with small baby toys or solving food puzzles. It’s been nice. I wish there were guidelines people had to sign to behave at zoos before entering, but at the same time, they are the lifeline we so desperately need to keep functioning.”—qicklash


“Finally a thread I can answer! Not a whole lot of change, but animals definitely missing out some enrichment of seeing guests, especially the otters that follow the kids in the glass under water. Takin, Maned wolves, bison, gibbons, BoPs, Lions, etc all are about the same. Some of our animals that are skittish have been standing closer to the fence where guests usually are (zebras, gazelle) which is nice. It’s kinda this weird balance of being both more and less stressed.

On the one side, I don’t have to worry about keeper talks or BTS tours and I have more time to get everything done and spend more time with animals. On the other side, we’re skeleton-crewed and there’s less of us to care for the whole zoo so I’m working a lot more in areas I don’t usually cover as often. There’s one kangaroo that still tries to box me while the emu is shifting. The one peacock still really doesn’t like taking his medications of course. I have noticed that the crows in the city are behaving a bit differently as well and are being a lot braver, lol.”—FriedCockatoo



I’m late to the thread, so I’m sure this will get buried, but I work for a very large, very busy AZA zoo. I work with the ambassador animals, so they are animals that are very used to the public. Pretty much like what everyone else has said, the animals are mostly confused that there aren’t any people. Our petting zoo animals, in particular, are super needy. The second they see or hear us they all come running over and start crying for attention.

We’re trying to give all the animals as much attention as possible, but we’re down to a bare-bones crew, so it’s not as much as we would like. What I wanted to add, though, because I think it’s incredibly interesting, is that we are collecting fecal samples from some of the animals to be tested for cortisol levels, which is a pretty good indicator of stress levels. That way, when guests come back, we can take samples for comparison to see how much guests impact stress. I think its really cool that we’re taking this opportunity to see what we can learn about how guests impact the animals, and to see if there are potentially things we can do even better to improve the lives of the animals in our care. We were really hoping to do some behavioral studies too about things like activity levels, amount of the enclosure being utilized, etc. that are also important considerations for their welfare, but unfortunately we just don’t have the time or staffing.”—zoolady


“Not a zookeeper here, but there was a story on the local news that the apes at the local zoo are apparently very bored because they don’t have any people doing stupid things to watch anymore.”—BobbyP27


“The walruses are masturbating furiously.”—thejadedsf