The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Lily Martin
Staff writer 

Where have you people been?

Zoo animals (except for the hyena) welcome back visitors to zoo


Last updated 8/8/2020 at 3:01pm

Lily Martin

Jerrica, a giraffe at the Hillcrest Park Zoo, was one of the many animals to welcome visitors back to the facility over the last week.

CLOVIS - Jerrica missed us. So did Jo. They seemed thrilled Hillcrest Park Zoo is open to visitors again for the first time since March, according to zoo clerk Mary-Lou McAnulla.

"Jerrica, our younger giraffe who is basically just a giant golden retriever, she missed the interaction," McAnulla said. "Jo, our chihuahua raven - the one who says 'Hang man's coming' and talks to everyone - noticed because there's nobody for her to play with."

More than 500 people came to visit the zoo animals Aug. 1-2, the first weekend the zoo has been opened since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.

McAnulla said 87 people were viewing the exhibits at one time last Sunday. State health officials have set capacity at 100 visitors.

"It came really close (to capacity) on Sunday, because people come after church. So we were squeezing all of those people in during a four-hour period."

On Wednesday, she said the traffic was still heavy. "We're way busy today, and normally on a Wednesday it would be a ghost town in here."

Not all the zoo residents missed the people, however. The hyena liked his privacy, according to zoo staff.

Zookeepers over the past four months kept the animals occupied and entertained by enhancing their U.S. Department of Agriculture required enrichment programs.

"There's a protocol, every week they have to do something different," McAnulla said. "Either something environmental, scent, food, or tactile. So we just ramped that up.

"Mrs. Lisa Fox, she's our dietitian, did gift bags, and goodies, and gave them different foods - tried to keep them occupied," added McAnulla.

While the animals were out of the public spotlight, staff took advantage of the uncrowded zoo to work on maintenance projects.

"We were all here, so we actually did more in their pens because we had more time. Landscaping, building repairs, fence repairs," McAnulla said.

In addition, the zoo welcomed two new residents.

"We did receive two timber wolf hybrids from a rescue in Maryland. Getting the wolves from Maryland was kind of a strategic nightmare because we couldn't go get them because of COVID. They actually arranged to have other people drive them across the country and then bring them to us over here," McAnulla said.

Lionel Cavazos, 6, said on Friday that his favorite animals at the zoo were the wolves.

He's been wanting to see them for a while now, said his mother.

"In Albuquerque - we went actually the week before the pandemic hit - the wolves were off exhibit, so (Lionel) was so excited that they have wolves here!" Danielle Cavazos said. She brought all four of her children to the zoo on Friday.

The wolves are not yet in their permanent exhibit as the zoo is redoing their habitat. But they can be seen on display near the front of the entrance next to their hyena neighbor.


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