Ring-tailed Lemur.

Bronx Zoo Staff Dedicated During COVID-19

By: Discovery

Animals are still being cared for by Bronx Zoo staff while the zoo remains temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 04, 2020

Jim Breheny is the Director of the Bronx Zoo and Executive Vice President of the Wildlife Conservation Society Zoos & Aquarium (WCS). You may also recognize him from Animal Planet's THE ZOO.

By Jim Breheny

Our WCS zoos and aquarium—the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium—are temporarily closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the great challenges, we recognize that our animals are completely reliant on us; and our staff is here every day ensuring that the animals are not negatively impacted by this crisis. The well-being and care of the animals is always our highest priority. Our staff members are devoted, compassionate people who are dedicated and take their responsibility to the animals very seriously. You can hear directly from our keepers in these videos.



Bronx Zoo keeper Susan Schmid shares a moment with little blue penguin chick, JP.

Bronx Zoo keeper Susan Schmid shares a moment with little blue penguin chick, JP.

As the nation braced and prepared for the pandemic, we made plans at the Bronx Zoo to adjust our operations for the crisis. Under these new circumstances, approximately 300 employees are responsible for providing care to our animals and maintaining our facilities, and we are now operating in two teams and working on alternating weeks. This schedule lessens the number of people in our parks at any one time and enables our staff to better practice social distancing while at work. In this way, we can best protect the essential staff caring for the animals and maintaining the buildings and critical life support systems they depend upon.

That our staff has ‘answered the call’ and responded to this crisis is no surprise to us. Whether it’s blizzards, Hurricane Sandy or the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we can count on our team to be here to ensure that our animals’ needs are met. It’s a source of pride to all of us. What is different this time is that there is no definitive endpoint. Unlike a hurricane, blizzard or severe storm when things typically return to normal in a matter of days, we don’t know how long we’ll need to fight this pandemic and we don’t know what our new ‘normal’ will ultimately look like. But the one thing we do know is that our team will do whatever they need to do, for as long as they need to do it, to support our animals.



Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny and General Curator Pat Thomas.

Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny and General Curator Pat Thomas.

And we recognize we are not alone in this fight; we are not working in a vacuum. We are essential workers joining the ranks of others carrying on critical services and relying on and supporting each other as we continue to get the job done. From the police and fire departments, to transportation and health care workers, to the truckers who are hauling and delivering essential supplies, we are thankful to them for helping our communities and our efforts at the zoo.

This crisis hit our communities just as spring arrived, a time when families enjoy the outdoors, including a trip to our zoos. It is a strange feeling for us to see the Bronx Zoo empty at a time when it would normally be bustling with visitors. We look forward to welcoming our guests back to the park as soon as possible.



Red Panda cubs out on exhibit at the Prospect Park Zoo.

Red Panda cubs out on exhibit at the Prospect Park Zoo.

Prior to closing, we completed filming of the 4th season of Animal Planet’s THE ZOO which premieres on Saturday, April 4 (9pm ET/PT). As the many devoted followers of the show know, this docu-series brings viewers behind the scenes to see what goes into the daily running of a zoological park.

Although we are temporarily closed during this crisis, we are fortunate to be able to bring the Bronx Zoo, our animals and staff into people’s homes. Through this television series, viewers can appreciate the incredible diversity of species in our parks, along with the passion of our staff, their devotion to their work and our conservation mission, and their unique relationships with the animals in their care.

In this time of uncertainty, we are grateful for the support of our viewers and fans of THE ZOO locally, across the nation and around the world. On behalf of our entire staff; stay healthy and stay at home. Until you can visit us again in person, you can see The (Bronx) Zoo on Animal Planet. We are all in this together and we will get through it together.

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