Photos: Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo | Connecticut Public Radio
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Photos: Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo

Jun 11, 2020

The Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport opened to visitors at 50% capacity last week for the first time since it closed just before COVID-19 restrictions took effect nearly three months ago. The zoo cares for some of the most critically endangered animals on the planet and does crucial work with education, research and conservation. It’s also the only zoo in Connecticut accredited by the AZA (Association for Zoos and Aquariums).

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Even under coronavirus restrictions, the animal care specialists still needed to provide the same daily care to the animals while the zoo was closed. In order to accomplish this, Gregg Dancho, director of Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, said the staff had to adjust its approach, not only working solo split shifts but also wearing masks and maintaining distance while interacting with the animals. The only way the animals can get the disease is through humans. See how the zoo prepared to welcome guests back.

Animal care specialist Chris Barker puts out food for the critically endangered Amur leopards before they come out for their morning meal. The zoo has three Amur leopards, which are native to southern Russia and northern China. The worldwide population stands at only 100.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
Amur leopard Orion (foreground), in the enclosure the cub shares with sister Kallisto. The two cubs were born at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in January 2019. Their mom, Freya, came from the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark. Animal care specialist Chris Barker said the young leopards seemed confused when social distancing started and the staff had to change the way they worked with them.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
Animal care specialist Chris Barker at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo checks the security of the enclosure for the Amur leopards before they come out for their morning meal.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
Black-handed spider monkeys at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo. The monkeys are in the rainforest building, which is still closed to visitors. According to Emma Carney, the animal care specialist for primates, the male spider monkeys and howler monkeys weren't fans of seeing people in face masks at first. Some "got grumpy and poofed up." But they adjusted quickly, she said.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
Chacoan peccaries at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo, which reopened June 1 under pandemic state and federal guidelines.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
Before the zoo reopened for visitors, the staff prepared by following state and local guidelines. Guests are asked to wear masks, keep social distance, walk clockwise through the zoo and refrain from touching glass. Between noon and 1 p.m. each day, the zoo closes for deep cleaning.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
Animal care specialist Bethany Thatcher checks the water temperature of the alligator pond at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
Amur tiger sisters Reka and Zeya were born at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo and are now over 2 years old. Animal care specialist Chris Barker says that one of the biggest misconceptions people have about zoos is that animals are taken from the wild. Almost all animals in zoos today have been born under human care and have been for generations. Reka and Zeya's lineage can be traced back to their grandparents and great-grandparents.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
Animal care specialist Bethany Thatcher talks with director Gregg Dancho. Dancho admits they are learning about how to respond to the pandemic as they go along just like everyone else. He knows there will be questions they won't know how to answer at first. The safety of the zoo staff, animals and guests are the zoo's top priority.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
A critically endangered Amur tiger plays at the Beardsley Zoo. She's one of two sisters born there. In 2022, the zoo will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
A cardboard cutout photo station is boarded up at the Beardsley Zoo. Director Gregg Dancho said the zoo has lost revenue from school trips, camps, weddings and events that had to be canceled due to the pandemic. The zoo did receive emergency federal funding, but as an educational facility, all sources of funding are important to its operational budget.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC
An Andean condor that is around 50 years old at the Beardsley Zoo. Guests can visit the zoo by purchasing tickets online.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC