Animal Care, Coming and Going

From animal transport to medical treatments, spring is a busy season at Como Zoo

Humans aren’t the only species that seem to get a spring in their step when the weather turns warm. Jill Erzar, a senior zookeeper at Como Zoo, believes animals anticipate spring just as we do. 

“It seems like animals are always a little more excited this time of year,” she says. “The ice has thawed, there are new smells in their habitats, and of course, many more visitors.” 

On your next visit to Como, you may notice some changes, as zookeepers take advantage of the spring weather to welcome new animals, say goodbye to old friends, and provide best practice veterinary care to animals. Here’s a look: 

  • A New Way to Navigate:

    Though he’s blind, 4-year-old Jasper the cougar has no problem navigating his habitat at Como Zoo. But when complications from progressive retinal atrophy were causing additional health problems and discomfort for the young animal, zookeepers made the difficult decision, in partnership with veterinarians, to remove his nonfunctioning eyes during a successful surgery you may have heard about here at MPRNews and here at FOX9.  Now back in his habitat, Erzar says, “Jasper may be more cautious at this point moving around, but his activity will likely appear normal since he was unseeing prior to the surgery and was accustomed to his habitat.”

  • Living Out Her Golden Years:

    There’s another new face in the large cat building—Lily, a 19-year-old serval. A long-time resident of Bismarck’s Dakota Zoo, Lily moved to Como in March where she will live out her golden years. “We had the space and the capabilities to give her a quiet retirement home while sharing her story with our visitors,” says Erzar. “At 19, she’s at the top of the age range for her species,” but keepers report she’s thriving in her new habitat.  

  • Ostrich in the Old Barn:

    Como’s Old Barn has historically been the home of cold-weather animals like bison and Arctic fox. But this summer, two new ostriches will take over the space previously occupied by Forest the reindeer, who has joined a herd of male reindeers at the Minnesota Zoo. The young ostriches, both hatched last August, will eventually join Pickles the ostrich, who shares a habitat with Como’s giraffe herd at the African Hoofstock building.

  • Warmer Climes for Kudu:

    While Como Zoo has had years of success breeding lesser kudu, Minnesota’s long, cold winters have never been the ideal climate for these African antelopes. “Lesser kudu are wonderful animals, but they’re freeze babies, and they don’t like to be outdoors when temps drop below about 55 degrees,” says Erzar. “They’re also very nervous animals, and though we’re a small zoo, we have a very large visitor base that’s not ideal for them.” To promote their welfare, Como’s lesser kudu have moved to warmer climes, while a breeding pair of nyala are moving in. Another breed of African antelope, but with long flowing hair, Erzar says, “they’re known for being more cold tolerant and less stressed by human interaction.” Look for male Stanley to make his Como debut within the next week, while female Stevie will join him later this summer.

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