Seneca Park Zoo officials on animal care, staffing, and more amid pandemic

Coronavirus

IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. (WROC) — Seneca Park Zoo and Monroe County officials gave an update Monday afternoon regarding and its animals on Monday.

Seneca Park Zoo Interim Director David Hamilton and Seneca Park Zoo Society President and CEO Pamela Reed-Sanchez addressed the media and answered questions.

They also announced special programming for their Earth Day Celebration — which included hourly online programming from 10am to 3pm Wednesday, April 22nd— and World Penguin Day Saturday, April 25th, where “Zoo Keeper Kevin Blakely will discuss his experience working in South Africa.”

Here are the big takeaways:

Animals

The animals are still being properly fed and cared for. They’re receiving enrichment and attention, and making sure they have a wide variety of activities.

Hamilton notes a change in behavior for some of the animals. He noticed that the wolves howl more, which he says could be because of the quieter involvement. He also said the giraffes and lions take special interest when he walks by.

They’re also introduced a new animal, a female otter named Ashkii. Hamilton says she and the zoo’s male otter, Sailor, have been playing and taking naps together.

Staffing

All staff go through a health check when they arrive, which includes a temperature check and a questionnaire. From there, they keep physical distance from each other and the animals, and they all wear masks and gloves.

“We’re being careful not do anything unnecessary with the animals,” Hamilton said. “We’re staying further back from the majority of them.”

The total daily work hours have been reduced to 62% at the zoo. Only essential tasks are performed daily, and without the food or admissions, there’s less to maintain.

However, there have been no layoffs yet. They’re finding ways for zoo keepers and other employees working at home.

Reed-Sanchez thinks that this is maintainable for the foreseeable future, especially with NYS PAUSE’s month-long extension.

She’s asking for more people to consider becomes members or renewing their memberships. They’re also offering an extra two free months on the membership at this time.

How to keep up with the zoo

Reed-Sanchez says the Zoo Society went into action right away after the zoo closed on March 13th, saying that everyone needs some enrichment right now.

“So many parents are home with children looking for activities, and so many adults are feeling really isolated right now,” she said.

They started “Zoo Projects at Home.” They’re releasing daily activities every week day at 11am for people of all ages to stay engaged in the natural world, and to keep up with what the zoo is doing. They range from animal yoga to tools for becoming b a citizen scientist.

“The zoo is a resource for everyone related to nature and wildlife,” she said.

Animal testing

With a tiger testing for the coronavirus at the Bronx Zoo earlier this month, the zoo says they’re concerned. They didn’t specifically address if they knew any additional science on human to animal transmission, but they have increased all of their precautions.

Post-COVID plans

“We’re working on the plan,” Hamilton said. “But we haven’t decided on the plan, but we’re benchmarking with zoos across the country.”

He also said that they’re looking at what other zoo’s plans are.

Reed-Sanchez said they’re also working on plans to reduce money and credit card exchanges, as well as managing lines with physical distancing throughout the park.

MORE | COVID-19 county by county: Keeping track of local cases throughout the region

As of Monday morning, 71 Monroe County residents have died from the virus. There have now been 1,016 positive cases in the county, 97 are hospitalized and 30 patients are in the intensive care unit.

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