Spring has sprung in Philly, and normally, Philadelphians would be jumping at the chance to pay a visit to the Zoo, especially on those sunny days that are inevitably on the horizon. Even though times right now aren’t exactly pleasant, the Philadelphia Zoo isn’t letting social distancing stop their fun—they are just adjusting the Zoo experience into the digital sphere to help give viewers an inside look and also help combat the feelings of isolation that many are feeling right now.
COVID-19 has obviously limited Philadelphians, but it hasn’t limited our sense of wonder or curiosity. Both of those mindful human aspects can be fueled by the Zoo’s new digital programming. Every weekday at 2 p.m., Philadelphians can get an interesting look at the inner workings of the Zoo, go behind the scenes, talk with experts and still meet some of the Zoo’s most amazing creatures.
“We take viewers behind the scenes and we highlight a different group of animals every day and the people who care for them,” says Shearer. “It’s really an incredible group of staff who are showcasing everything from babies to tours to interviews and even some medical procedures. We wanted to make sure that we are able to go behind the scenes on those kinds of things.”
Instead of being stuck at home and focusing on what this pandemic has taken away, we should also take moments to look at what it can bring. This in-depth look would normally not be available to civilians.
“We’ve been able to show a little bit of the training that our keepers work with our animals on and how they care for them,” says Shearer. “The other day, we had Breezy the goat’s birthday [on the series] and we were able to tell just how old she was just by looking at her hoof. These kinds of pieces of training are able to let our keepers and veterinary staff care for our animals and do things like draw blood and take ultrasounds and so forth. You’re getting to see all of these kind of things—normally when you visit, you’re only there for a few hours and there are a lot of things to see. You can’t really get too in-depth into the veterinary work or our mission and why we exist when we’re open.”
One aspect that viewers can certainly look forward to with the series comes in the form of a baby sloth bear. The bear was born just a few weeks ago, and according to Shearer, is the first baby sloth bear that the Zoo has seen in almost 40 years.
“The mother and baby are starting to venture outside, so be on the lookout later this week for that to be a feature of our Philly Zoo at 2. It’s going to be really incredible. We normally have different species being born, and we try to perpetuate species so they don’t go extinct, and it’s special for our visitors to talk to the keepers and veterinarians who are caring for them right now,” says Shearer.
The Philadelphia Zoo, like everyone, is being hit hard. But there are things that people can do to help keep their establishments alive and spirits up.
“There are a couple of things people can do. Stay connected with us, we feel very strongly that we keep a deep engagement with the Philadelphia community. We want to remain active not only on Facebook with the Philly Zoo at 2, but also stay active with our Twitter and Instagram,” says Shearer. “We’re posting a lot of cool content, videos and photos. This is a bit of a challenging time, especially on beautiful days—people want to go outside and they want to come together, and this is going to have a financial impact on our organization. But we do have a way people can donate, and it will be on our website’s homepage. Anything that people were to contribute to the ongoing care of our animals and the staff would be helpful. Everyone is still very much engaged in their current work and getting ready for the day when we open again. We’ve had a real outpouring of support as well that has just been so uplifting for this staff, just incredible. That means things like renewing your membership now or donating, plus we’ve just had a lot of really funny and pretty inspirational emails and actions by the community that has meant a lot to the staff.”
To learn more about the Philadelphia Zoo, visit philadelphiazoo.org, and to check out the Philly Zoo at 2 series, visit the Zoo’s Facebook page at 2 p.m. on weekdays.