Zoo to you
We have been hearing a lot in the news about social distancing recently. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, it is recommended to stay at least 6 feet away from others and avoid going to public areas with lots of people to help keep everyone safe. This is abnormal behavior for some people. In general, we are a social species. We like to be around others, so this distancing can be difficult for some of us. However, some animals would find this distancing much easier than others!
Take the Amur leopard, for example. They are considered a solitary animal, meaning that most of their life is spent alone. They do not live in large groups. Usually, if leopards are spending time together it is because they are looking for a mate. Or it is a mother with her cubs before they are old enough to survive on their own. Leopards would be excellent at social distancing!
Another species that would do very well during social distancing is the black rhino. Another solitary species, wild rhinos roam the savannah or dry forests of Africa searching for food and water. They might run into another individual every once in a while, but they do not travel in large herds. Here at the Zoo, we have two black rhinos that live in the same area, but you might notice they do not spend all of their time together. It is common to see them in separate parts of their habitat, allowing them space for their natural solitary behavior.
There are also some animals that would be terrible at social distancing. Alpacas are a great example of this. They live in herds, sharing food, water, and sleeping spaces with many other individuals at once. They rely on larger groups to keep an eye out for predators as they graze. They tend to follow each other very closely, which would make social distancing very difficult!
If you are someone who relates more to the alpaca and is missing being around other people, we are here to help! Check in to the Lee Richardson Zoo’s Facebook page for some videos with the animals that call the Zoo home. If you have school-age children, we will be posting some educational programs that would normally be delivered in their classrooms that you can check out.
We are still open to the public if you would like to visit as well. Pour indoor facilities are closed, but you can still walk around outside and see many of the animals. Just remember: be like a leopard and space yourself out from others, not an alpaca!
Julianne Werts is a conservation education specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.