Winter is Movie Time for Erie Zoo Animals
Things look a lot different at the Erie Zoo when it's closed for the winter season. No cars in the parking lot. No people scurrying around to look at the animals. The animals notice the difference. Some of them do miss all the people walking around, staring at them, and taking pictures.
"Most of these animals have been in a zoo setting their whole life. They don't know any different. Their visitors bring them so much fun and enrichment. Something to engage with,” says Emily Smicker, Marketing and Events Coordinator.
The zoo staff discovered that movies can replace the fun and enrichment that the flocks of people normally provide. So every winter's day, when the zoo is closed, DVD movies are played for some of the animals, including Dasa the Orangutan.
"What we look for is if the animal is interacting, engaging, and stimulated by the movies or not. If they like the movies, we let them watch it. If they don't, we find other ways to keep them engaged,” says Emily.
It's usually the primates that truly enjoy the movies. They are the most social and are the animals that appreciate zoo visitors the most. The staff believes the primates would really get the wintertime blues if it wasn't for the movies.
"Like any of us, if we don't have anything to do, we're not stimulated. You kind of get into a slump. With primates in particular, they tend to show behaviors like toddlers will. So, they'll kind of throw a little temper tantrum. They'll be upset, stomp around…that type of thing,” says Kylie Kaspick, Assistant Marketing & Events Coordinator
The staff recently asked zoo supporters to donate DVD movies for the animals to watch. The staff believed the animals would enjoy additional selections. The response was incredible. More than 200 DVD's were donated. All of them rated "G". That’s exactly what the zoo wanted.
"We have birds in some of these exhibits that are in the surrounding area and they can pick up on some foul language, which is something we really wouldn't want,” says Kylie.
The new stacks of movies include old classics like Sleeping Beauty. There's also flicks like Dunston Checks In and Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. The staff says the primates identify with the furry characters in those kinds of movies. People donated so many DVD's, the zoo stopped accepting any more.
"We have so many now and we are so grateful,” says Emily. “Our animals are going to be able to have a different movie every day for a long time to come."
Although the zoo is not accepting any more DVD movies, it is accepting other gifts for the animals. To find out what's needed, go to eriezoo.org/wishlist.