Attracting more than two million visitors each year, the Houston Zoo is among the most-visited zoos in the country and one of the most-attended attractions in the Houston area. But, nearly a month ago, its seemingly endless stream of guests evaporated when the zoo closed its doors to the public amid efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Yet, the beloved attraction nestled in Hermann Park remains as popular as ever.
During these unprecedented times, and while operating with a skeleton crew, the Houston Zoo is working to cheer up the millions of Houstonians holed up at home. Soon after it closed, the zoo began live-streaming behind-the-scenes animal experiences and exhibit tours, offering viewers a glimpse into the animals’ daily lives.
“It’s the only way that we’re really able to connect with people that would normally be here at the zoo,” said Kevin Hodge, the zoo’s general curator.
So far, the live streams have run the gamut, offering an array of adorable and amazing animal encounters. Zookeepers have taken viewers on a walk through the zoo with Dash the cheetah, into the clouded snow leopard exhibit with rambunctious cubs Nova and Luna, up to the piranha tank during feeding time, behind-the-scenes during a training session with sea lions Jonah and Kamia.
Naked mole rats and tarantulas have also made an appearance.
“In addition to some of the big animals that everyone sees, we also want to bring some of the animals that maybe people miss when they’re here at the zoo so we’re getting an opportunity to highlight some of the lesser known species,” Hodge said.
Those who tune in can expect a zoology lesson on the day’s featured animal and inquisitive viewers can ask the keepers questions in real time.