Zookeepers at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse are working to keep themselves and the animals safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have two different teams so that if somebody does get sick on one of the teams, we still have somebody that is capable of taking care of every animal,” said Zoo Director Ted Fox.

Only about a quarter of the zookeepers are working at any given time. That keeps them busy.

“It’s been challenging, but something that’s still very important to us, and we’re trying to give them as much as possible,” said zookeeper Hannah Vona. “It’s definitely different for the animals; they can tell there is nobody here anymore, so giving them that enrichment is still really important.”

For the San Clemente Island goats, enrichment means making friends. Nutmeg, a red panda, eats craisins from an egg carton to simulate foraging for food. The snow leopards are on the prowl for meat in a cardboard tube.

“In the wild, they tear apart a carcass,” said Vona. “We don’t have a carcass to give them every day here, so if they can tear apart the cardboard, it still works their teeth and their jaw muscles and provides that natural behavior for them.”

The quiet time has given zookeepers a chance to polish their skills and come up with new activities for when the zoo reopens.