I often hear people complaining in zoos about how they went on a trip and they didn’t see any animals there! Often times this isn’t the case…either they didn’t spend enough time looking for the animals in their exhibits (some like to hide or have good camouflage!), or one particular animal they wanted to see was not out and they were grossly over exaggerating. There are many reasons animals may be off display so I’d like to provide both some insight in why they might be, as well as ways you can find out before you go.
- Winter: This is probably the main reason animals would be off display. Many animals in zoos are traditionally warmer weather species and do not have the proper methods to keep themselves warm in snow or cooler temperatures. For this reason they will be kept in off display exhibits with warmer temperatures. As well if there is ever any ice in outdoor paddocks many zoos do not let out any hoofstock animals due to the higher chances of leg injuries.
**Note: If you notice some zoos have a species on display where you go to another one and they say it is too cold for them to be out. This could be an example of zoos having the resources to alter the exhibits to have hot spots and therefore provide extra heat even to outdoor areas.
- Storms: This may seem silly to many guests as most animals would have to endure storms if they were in the wild but usually this protocol is to ensure the safety and comfort of their animals. Giraffes for example are usually moved indoors in zoos during storms to prevent being struck by lightning. If any of you have pets at home you may know how some are very frightened by thunder. This happens with zoo animals as well and they may be moved indoors into a calmer or safer environment.
- Heat: Many animals are more comfortable in warmer environments; however, if the temperatures climb too high it can quickly turn to uncomfortable. In general, zoos try to keep their exhibits as comfortable as possible for their animals which would include shade and possibly pools for them to cool off in. If these options are not available or on exceptionally hot days certain species or individuals may be kept indoors.
- Vet Checks: Attempts are usually made to schedule vet checks on slower days or on already scheduled off days. However, if any of you readers have children or pets of your own you can recognize how fluke problems can arise or injuries can appear seemingly out of nowhere. In order to address any problems immediately animals may suddenly be off display part way through the day.
- Reproduction: Either for breeding purposes, fertility checks, pregnancy monitoring, or off exhibit time alone for the first days/weeks/months for the mother and young.
- New Animals: For newly acquired animals by a zoo in many circumstances these animals will be off display for awhile before they will be displayed to the public. First mandatory quarantine procedures must be followed in the majority of cases. Also these individuals would also have to be introduced to the routines of the zoos so they know they are safe and at a new home. If there are other individuals they are on display with they are also usually introduced to each other for the first couple of times outside of the public eye in case of any problems.
- Construction: For updating exhibits or areas of the zoo often the animals would not be able to be on display during this time. There’s usually no way of getting around that but keep in mind this is often the zoo trying to make your future visits better!
So clearly there are many reasons why animals may be off display at the zoo but how would you be able to know ahead of time to pick the best days for your trip?
- Check Their Website: Most places do not update their website every day, but if an animal is going to be off display for an extended period of time due to illness, construction, or hibernation they will usually post this on an area of their website.
- Call Ahead: Usually the guest services department knows of times animals are off display or when they usually are. Give a call the morning of your trip or the day or two before to see if they know of any.
- Check When You Arrive: It doesn’t save you the drive but sometimes there are notice boards at the entrance to zoos giving a list of animals which won’t be on display for the day or will only be out for certain times. You can always check this board or ask at the gate before you pay.
Remember: Zoos know that their guests make the trip to the zoo to see the animals. They try their best to keep animals on display, however the welfare of the animals is their first priority.