New Orleans-- The lions at the Audubon Zoo zero in on the rare human that passes by their exhibit these days.
“Those lions don’t miss anything around the exhibit, especially Zuri," said Joe Forys, curator of mammals at the Zoo. "She watches everyone that walks around.”
Forys calls the atmosphere around the zoo, “surreal,” as animals roam their empty exhibits.
“That’s all part of the place that they live," Forys said, noting that most of the animals have access to their habitats 24 hours a day. "It’s all part of their world.”
Forys was a veteran of Hurricane Katrina, when a small staff of curators and keepers tended to the zoo.
“The difference here is that we have power and water," Forys said. "During Katrina, everyone was hanging together and socializing. In this one, we all have to stay two arms length away from either other.”
He notes other natural disasters, from hurricanes to floods to wildfires, have affected zoos in specific regions at one time or another on a number of occasions..
“In this one, it’s worldwide. So, all the zoos around the world, we’re all going through the same thing.”
The zoo has reduced the number of staff onsite, dividing them into two teams which alternate working periods of several long days and keeping their distance from one another.
“The animal care staff has been amazing. Everybody in New Orleans can be really proud of the animal care staff at their zoo.”