As schools across the country are closed for weeks amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one zoo is offering kids virtual home safaris to help keep them entertained and educated while everyone is cooped up at home. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is also closed to the public during this time, but animal lovers can still experience and learn about wildlife from the safety of their sofas.
"We’re bringing the Zoo to people who are stuck at home," Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said in a statement on Monday. "This Zoo is so important to the community and not being able to visit will create a void that we’re trying to fill. The goal with the daily live sessions is to provide fun and educational content to people who are stuck at home."
Starting yesterday at 3 p.m. ET, the zoo will be sharing home safari videos on Facebook Live all week long. The first video, which is now available on YouTube and on the zoo's website, featured the zoo's famous hippos Fiona and her mom, Bibi. The 22-minute-long safari takes viewers through the Hippo Cove while a zookeeper feeds them a bucket of lettuce leaves and shares fun facts about the large semiaquatic mammal.
"Fiona is a world-famous hippo because she was born at least six weeks premature. Most hippos are about 75 to 100 pounds when they're born," Jenna the zookeeper says, "but Fiona was only 29 lbs."
To watch the other home safari videos live throughout the week, tune into the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's Facebook page at 3 p.m. ET. On Tuesday, March 17, the zoo will feature a prickly porcupine named Rico. However, if you can't catch it live, the zoo will post the virtual safaris on its website and on YouTube afterward.
As many businesses and organizations will be closed for an extended period of time amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to help limit the spread of the virus, the zoo has also asked people to consider donating to its emergency operating fund to assist "with the care of our animals and team members."
"As a non-profit organization, the Zoo relies on ticket sales, zoo visits, memberships and donations to operate. Being closed will have a significant impact on its overall operating budget," Maynard said. "Your support now is more critical than ever."
While helping and supporting local organizations is invaluable right now, so is practicing social distancing. Health officials are recommending people stay home and away from others to help limit the spread of the new coronavirus. Thankfully, though, with entertainment like virtual home safaris, there's plenty to do to help pass the time and stay safe.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.