OKC Zoo goes virtual in this time of COVID-19 response
Despite its temporary closure this spring break due to the unprecedented public health response related to COVID-19 (coronavirus), the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden remains committed to its conservation education mission and, in that spirit, is going virtual! This includes interactive animal wellness exams, St. Patrick’s Day animal enrichment, engaging at-home conservation projects for families plus a new digital series in development (details coming soon).
“The decision to temporarily close was not made lightly. We know families, students and educators from across the region have made the OKC Zoo part of their spring break tradition for years, including a record-setting 93,000 people visiting in 2019,” said Dwight Lawson, OKC Zoo executive director and CEO. “While digital content is no replacement for the in-person, immersive Zoo experience, sharing our behind-the-scenes experiences and allowing fans to engage with the Zoo from home is a way to lessen the impact of the temporary closure.”
The vets are in! Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, director of veterinary services, and her team are continuing their scheduled wellness exams this week. These exams will be shared through Facebook Live and, when possible, will allow viewers to submit questions for the Zoo’s veterinarians in real time! Currently scheduled for this week are:
Male elk, Fred, is scheduled for a wellness exam and hoof trim on Tuesday, March 17, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital.
Male bobcat, Cody, will undergo his wellness exam on Wednesday, March 18, from 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital.
As an added bonus, the Zoo will share special St. Patrick’s Day-themed animal enrichment throughout the day on Tuesday, March 17. Watch online as your favorite animals receive festive enrichment items from their caretakers. These activities feature items designed to encourage natural behaviors and provide new stimuli for the animals to enjoy. Animals enjoying themed enrichment for St. Paddy’s Day include: stingrays, California sea lions, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, lorikeets, Galapagos tortoises, ostriches, bobcat and Asian elephants.
Looking for a fun project for kids K-12? Get creative for conservation and enter the Zoo’s Pepsi Vending Machine Art Contest! This year’s contest theme, RECYCLING: Make It Second Nature, challenges students to illustrate creative ideas for promoting recycling and how doing so can help protect and restore the planet’s natural resources. Each of the contests two grand prize winners will receive a $300 gift card to a store at OKC Outlets and their design will become the cover of a Pepsi machine in the Zoo’s entry plaza for an entire year, viewed by an estimated one million Zoo guests. Winners from all award categories will receive a certificate and have their designs on display at the OKC Zoo and OKC Outlets. Official entry forms and complete contest details are available online at okczoo.org/pepsicontest. Entries must be postmarked by Friday, April 3, 2020.
Doing some spring cleaning? Put aside your old cellphones and small electronic devices to help save gorillas! When the COVID-19 public health emergency has ended, bring those devices to the OKC Zoo before September 30, 2020 and donate them as part of the Zoo’s Gorillas on the Line Cellphone Challenge! Recycling old cellphones helps reduce the demand for coltan and protects gorilla habitat in Africa. These items can be dropped off for recycling in the Zoo’s guest experience office in the entry plaza. As a thank you for donating, the Zoo will provide two admission vouchers valid for one year.
Temporarily closed to the public for the well-being of Zoo guests, team members, ZOOfriends members, volunteers and, of course, the animals in our care, safety is our top priority every day at the OKC Zoo, particularly with the emergence of COVID-19. Zoo officials will continue to closely monitor this developing situation and follow guidance from federal, state and local health officials.
Fans wishing to support the OKC Zoo and mitigate the significant cost of the temporary closure can pre-purchase tickets online at okczoo.org/tickets or become ZOOfriends members at zoofriends.org/membership. Tickets are valid for a year from date of purchase. Any ZOOfriends membership purchased or renewed during March or April will receive two additional months to extend their membership.
Stay well and go wild (without going stir crazy)! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at ZOOfriends.org or in-person at the Zoo! To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.