Zoo Educates Public during Pandemic

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NORRISTOWN, Pa. – Elmwood Park Zoo’s own Rosie the Tarantula and Pokey the Porcupine have become the newest YouTube sensations while zoo operations are suspended during the covid-19 pandemic.

Animals like Rosie in the zoo’s education department typically travel around Pennsylvania to teach about the environment and conservation efforts. Now they are regular guests on Zoo School Live!, a television program produced by zookeepers during the pandemic.

The program has reached thousands of people across Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

Snowbelle is ready for her feature on Zoo School Live!

Zookeepers turned Television Personalities

 Zookeepers have learned to film the show while practicing social distancing measures to keep themselves and animals safe.

“Usually we have one person on camera with animal ambassador and then the person filming can stay six feet away…and then we have another person six-feet away who handles the questions from viewers,” said Laura Housten, Director of Education at the Elmwood Park Zoo.

As they filmed more episodes, they got more experienced with filming techniques and picking which questions to answer.

“Kids almost always want to know what animals favorite toys are, what their favorite food is, and if the animal has any friends – so we make sure to address these questions with all animals” she said. “It’s interesting how (Zoo School) equates to children and their lives.”

Filming Zoo School episodes and connecting to audiences have brought a sense of normalcy in these otherwise uncertain times for zoo staff.

Mateo is lonely without zoo visitors.

Keeping animals company during a pandemic

 The spring and summer is the busiest season for the Elmwood Park Zoo, from school field trips to the Philadelphia Eagles training camp.

Noah, the Elmwood Park Zoo’s bald Eagle, spends his days training to fly during the National Anthem before games at Lincoln Financial Field and make appearances with football players.

“We’re not sure what football season will look like this year, but regardless, training will be kept up for Noah and Reggie,”

Elmwood Park Zoo staff try to keep each animal’s routine as normal as possible despite the lack of visitors flowing through the gate.

“Particularly our Ocelot Mateo, he loves watching people – so we make sure to visit him several times to make sure he gets company,” Housten said.