Because of the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia last weekend and the limited access around the city, the Zoo was closed to the public on Saturday and Sunday. What many people don’t realize is, even when the Zoo is closed, the animals still need to be looked after—yes, this means that we spend Christmas morning with our animals, not our families! So a group of essential staff stayed at the Zoo all weekend to be sure that the animals were tended to, and I was one of the keepers who stayed. We had cots and meals, and we lived here for 4 days straight!
It was funny to hear all of the stories of keepers sleeping in different areas. The Big Cat Falls keeper was kept up by a puma playing all night, and she also realized that Zenda the lion snores! My fellow primate keeper got to wake up with the spectacled langurs peering through their window at her, and some other keepers who camped out on Impala Lawn awoke to peacocks calling outside of their tents!
From a keeper standpoint, it was nice to not have the same time restrictions that we usually have for getting our animals on exhibit. This meant that we could do some extra cleaning, or extra projects that we can’t do during a normal work day. I also got to work with some primates besides gorillas, since there were only three of us staying (remember our building is usually a four-person operation). So I got to see some lemurs and tamarins that I don’t get to hang out with too often!
After dinner, we all hung out and enjoyed some hot chocolate by Impala Fountain. We sat around talking and playing games—it was a rare opportunity to catch up and socialize with some keepers outside our normal areas that we don’t get to see often. Sunday night we watched the lunar eclipse, although the clouds made that a little difficult.
I was happy to go home and see my kids Monday night, after being here for 74 hours straight, but there’s definitely something to be said for just rolling out of bed and already being at work—no commute needed!
By Kristen Farley-Rambo, Primary Gorilla Keeper