With all the hot summer days in the rearview mirror, animal activity has increased across Lincoln Park Zoo. Whether running, galloping, swinging, stomping, or waddling across their exhibit, various species are taking full advantage of the cooler temperatures—making autumn an ideal time to visit the zoo!
“When temperatures reach the 80s and 90s in July and August, the animals choose to spend more time in shade to conserve energy,” says Curator of Mammals Mike Murray. “It’s not that they don’t enjoy those temperatures. Even in the wild, they’d cope in similar ways. But in the fall, they’re naturally more active.”
Since the zoo’s buildings are closed to encourage social distancing, this burst of outdoor activity means autumn is the perfect time to visit species with access to both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Over at Regenstein African Journey, 1-year-old eastern black rhino Romeo is back to dashing across his outdoor yard with mom, Kapuki, looking on. And the newest addition to the giraffe herd, 3-year-old Rae, is making herself at home among the plains zebras during only her second fall at Lincoln Park Zoo.
“A lot of these African animals have native ranges that stretch all the way to south Africa, which is actually a really temperate area,” says Murray. “At night in the winter, the temperate can get into the low 30s, which is why a climate like Chicago’s is great for them.”
According to Murray, some species at Regenstein African Journey, such as the giraffes and red river hogs will spend more time indoors as the temperature dips beneath 50 degrees. Their interior spaces are kept at 70 degrees year-round, allowing them to stay warm on colder days.
At Regenstein Center for African Apes, the gorillas are more active outdoors in the fall but are kept inside when the temperatures fall below 50 degrees, something they wouldn’t experience in their native rainforest habitats. That makes autumn the best window to visit Kwan’s troop, including 2-year-old Djeke and Mondika, and the bachelors next door.
The Japanese macaque, on the other hand, thrive outdoors in temperate climates. As the most northern-living primates on earth, other than humans, these “snow monkeys” gather on the heated rocks that line the windows looking into their habitat—an ideal spot for guests to see the two babies born in the spring.
“The infants are a lot more independent now, so you might see them venturing off behind themselves,” says Curator of Primates Jill Moyse. “They have all their baby teeth, so they’re experimenting with food and browse. Overall, they’re very inquisitive about the world around them.”
Other species, like the Chilean flamingos at Waterfowl Lagoon and the Sichuan takins at Camel & Zebra area, can live thousands of feet above sea level in the mountains of South Africa and Asia, respectively, where temperatures are on par with Chicago’s polar vortexes.
At Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove, four African penguin pairs are nesting, but the others have been chasing bees that have slowed down as a result of the colder weather, according to Lead Bird Keeper Kristin Dvorak. The snowy owls, meanwhile, are enjoying the cooler weather and can be seen using their entire outdoor space.
Other animals—like the ostriches, red kangaroos, and patagonian cavys—will spend more time indoors when temperatures approach freezing. This includes the zoo’s newest mammal, a 2-month-old Grevy’s zebra, who can still be found sprinting through her exhibit, investigating squirrels, and learning from mom.
Check out these and other species this fall at Lincoln Park Zoo!
In order to limit capacity and support social distancing, free admission reservations are required to visit Lincoln Park Zoo.
Reservations are only available a few days in advance: reservations for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are released on the preceding Sunday at approximately 4 p.m.; reservations for Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays are released on the preceding Thursday at approximately 4 p.m.
Zoo members get access to three members-only arrival times each day—9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m.—and can now book one of those slots any time through October 31.