The Virginia Zoo

Carl, a zoo employee, works with one of the Zebras. They are separated by chain link fence.

Words by Penny Neef.
Images courtesy of the Virginia Zoo.

I miss going to the Virginia Zoo with my grandchildren. The Zoo is definitely in my top 100, out of about a million things, I miss during this pandemic. I have virtual visits with my grandkids almost daily and once a week, we drive up to their house and have a curbside visit. It’s just not the same.

I wonder what’s going on at the Zoo without all those animal loving children and their caregivers. Are the animals enjoying the peace? Do they miss us as much as we miss them? Are they healthy and safe? We’ve all heard the stories about the big cats in NYC getting Covid -19.

Hailey, a zoo staff member, works with Boris, who is some kind of large black bird with a blue head. Boris looks kinda confused.
Hailey at work with Boris.

Ashley Mars, Marketing Manager for the Virginia Zoo, reassures me that the big cats, and all the other animals are all doing well.  ”Animal care and vet staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, when they need to work within close proximity to each other for animal needs. They also are wearing appropriate PPE when working directly with certain species such as big cats, based on developing information and recommendations from Taxon Advisory Groups within our accrediting organization, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.”

The keepers and the staff at the Zoo continue with regular training sessions, feeding and vet care. “The health and welfare of the animals have remained a top priority for the Zoo!” Whether the animals miss us as much as we miss them is a tough question to answer. Maybe they’re enjoying this break from the public eye. Maybe it depends on the species.

Virtual Voyage is an excellent resource for Zoo activities, an augmented reality tour of the Zoo and one click links to the Zoo’s social media pages. 

Many school field trips to the Zoo were canceled this spring. The Zoo has Zoomed with over 100 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Norfolk Public Schools has been using the animal videos in the curriculum where applicable. You and your children can take your own virtual field trip to the Zoo here.

A baby giraffe looks at the camera, while a giraffe adult looks at the baby.

There is a new baby giraffe at the Zoo. If you click on the Zoo’s Facebook page, there are details about the baby naming contest. This little guy weighed in at 146 pounds at birth. The top five names submitted will be announced on June 8, so get out that baby naming book.

If you’ve got nothing else to do and want to amuse yourself and/or your kids, be sure to try out the Selfie Station where you can turn yourself into a tiger, lion or orangutan. I know that tigers are all the “thing” right now, but I think my out of control, can’t get to a hairdresser’s hair, looks rather like a mane. This may be my new profile pic.

Penny Neef, except her face is a lion.

Of course, all this is not the same as putting my grandkids in the car with snacks and spending the day at the Virginia Zoo, but then nothing is the same. Here’s hoping “normal” is coming. We can still do our part to support the Zoo, it’s animals and the staff.

The Virginia Zoo has launched an Emergency Operating Fun to help them get through these tough times. If you love the Zoo and want to donate to a place that is special in Hampton Roads, go to click here.

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