Just when you think life might slow down a bit, fall is actually a busy time at the zoo. While much of the coming weeks are driven by the weather, others are more closely tied to waiting for others to work. And then there are those unexpected events that seem to only add to the exciting time we call autumn around the zoo.
Zoo staff closely monitor the weather forecast to ensure we are ready in the fall for the winter ahead. It doesn’t take long to discover how quickly the weather can change in Minot. For most cold-sensitive collection members, a cold snap simply means they’re locked in their sleeping quarters until it passes. However, for primates, staff must decide when to move them to the off-exhibition wintering area. Once they move, it’s for the season so we try not to react without looking at the forecasts to come. If we are going through a period of warming, moving them again is not an option.
It is generally safer to transfer animals to and from other facilities in the spring and fall when it is neither too hot nor too cold, whether traveling on roads or via Airlines companies. This fall, we expect to receive a variety of new animals for both our outreach programs and the main collection. Some were selected for acquisition from other institutions while others were recommended for shipment to Minot by various Species Survival Programs (SSPs). Once the animals have been identified, we determine the best means of transport which varies according to the species and the number. The zoo has been recommended to receive a family group of crested lemurs that we should receive this fall. Initial contact with the Amur Leopard SSP enabled the zoo to receive a breeding pair this fall. Now that construction delays have pushed back the completion date, the arrival of new cats will have to be pushed back. For other species, such as the African lion, we are still awaiting recommendations from the SSP steering committee. But depending on how quickly the recommendations are issued and if we are among those receiving animals, these transfers may not take place until the spring.
Besides animal movement, whether for acquisitions or just inside the zoo, colder weather means the blowing of irrigation lines as well as other shallower water lines to some buildings and enclosures. We are constantly working on new ideas to improve the enclosures and try to stay ahead of the weather to accomplish as much as possible, so he doesn’t have to wait for the spring thaw. I could say that life at the zoo started slowing down in the fall, but I would lie to myself. Working in a zoo is and always has been a 24/7/365 job, but truth be told, the rewards almost always outweigh the cost.