EL PASO, Texas -- Coronavirus has kept visitors from entering the El Paso Zoo in recent times, but on the inside the zoo's vast diversity of species still need to be cared for.
Internal operations continue at the zoo, and for the animals, their routine is pretty much the same - except for all the visitors not coming to say hello.
“Just seeing people is a lot of fun for them as well," says zookeeper Stephanie Teter. "They just like to people watch sometimes so it’s a definitely a change for all of our animals.”
The lack of traffic gives both zoo staff and the animals an opportunity to do things they normally wouldn't do.
With downtime during the day, the zookeepers will take some animals on field trips visit other enclosures.
Over this past weekend, zookeepers brought two radiated tortoises, an endangered species indigenous to the African island of Madagascar, on a tour of some other enclosures.
After spending some time hanging with the birds of the Asian Forest Atrium, the tortoises ventured over the Sea Lion pool.
Visiting new enclosures provides wonders for the animals, who might not get to explore other atmospheres on a normal basis.
“In this case you know a new environment, new things to see, new colors," adds Teter. "Just anything that’s new to them and they’ll definitely investigate.”
The staff also help keep the animals in shape with exercise and games, aligning with keeping them healthy. And as far as the coronavirus is concerned, the animals were thought to be unable to contract it from humans.
However, that changed on Monday, when a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for the virus. It's believed the big cat was infected by a zoo employee who showed no immediate symptoms.
“There’s currently research going on to see what species might be susceptible to it," says zoo veterinarian Dr. Misty Garcia. "But it’s very different than having a natural infection.”
So far, there have been no cases where an animal has given Covid-19 to a human.
“There’s coronaviruses that dogs and cats carry that are specific to them. They don’t cross over to people and so it’s not the same as the coronavirus that we’re concerned with right now.”
The zoo will stay closed as long as it needs to prevent the spread, but know that on the inside, things can still get a little wild.