Young tapir Dozer

Where’s my people? Young tapir Dozer, born Jan. 11, walks around the Wildlife Zoo, perhaps wondering where its fans are.

Wildlife World Zoo animals have been adventuring while the public is away, but staff members there say the star attractions miss their visitors. The Litchfield Park zoo, which after recent annexations is literally surrounded by Glendale, has been closed during the pandemic but is planning to reopen next month.

Kristy Morcom, a spokeswoman for Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park, said the zookeepers have been taking animals through the public walkways to visit other areas of the park.

“It’s not only enrichment for those animals, but it’s also enriching for the surrounding animals, because animals in other exhibits might not be used to a warthog walking by or getting a visit from an armadillo,” she said.

Morcom said penguins, sea lions and giraffes normally love getting visitors from around the park.

“They’re very inquisitive and curious as to what’s going on and what animals are near,” she said.

The park’s macaws, who are used to greeting families and chatting with kids, have become very interested in what their neighbors are up to, she said. 

She said most of the macaws in the park are former pets who have been donated, so they really miss having people to interact with on a daily basis.

However, these people-loving birds are not the only ones.

“We have animals that you can tell definitely miss the public,” Morcom said.

The park is planning to reopen after Labor Day weekend, she said. But much like all other businesses, they won’t be opening without precautions.

She said guests will be required to wear masks, and social distancing will be adhered to. Hand-sanitizing stations will also be positioned throughout the park, she said.

People wearing masks has been an adjustment for the animals.

“The animals were not used to their caregivers’ faces being covered up, so that was an adjustment,” Morcom said. “I think our primates were definitely the most interested in the masks.”

The park prides itself on its interactive activities, but she said some of them, such as the “Touch Pool,” may be temporarily closed just after the park reopens.

However, the goal is to have as many of the interactive activities open as possible, she said.

“We feel like when people have that one-on-one interaction with wildlife, that’s when they’re truly inspired to want to conserve and protect those animals,” she said.

On top of the new safety precautions, Morcom said everyone at the park is excited to share newly “revamped” exhibits as well as a new tiger exhibit that will open shortly after the park reopens.

The new safari park addition will also be open, she said. It is several acres filled with some species the park has never seen before, including African pygmy hippos.

She said the safari park area opened just about a month before the park had to close, so many people were not able to see it.

Despite the changes with wearing masks and all the new fun the animals have been having, she said everyone at the zoo is ready for it to open.

Morcom said, “No doubt, the animals and the employees are all excited to have the doors reopened and have all of our visitors and guests back.”