Animals welcome visitors back at the Nashville Zoo

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As the Nashville Zoo welcomes back visitors, zookeepers say the animals are also glad to be reunited with their guests.

News 2 got the chance to meet Ima Kangaroo. Zookeeper Lauren Lott at the Nashville Zoo says even Ima longs for normal interaction put on hold by COVID-19.

“If people stop petting her, she looks around like when is my next comfort coming?” Lott said with a laugh.

Most of the animals at the Nashville Zoo have been around people their entire lives. So when the zoo closed for three months during the lockdown, lead carnivore keeper Melissa Fox noticed a change.

“Just like us, they had never experienced a shutdown,” Fox said. “So it was weird for us, but we noticed it was weird for them too.”

Also similar to people, the animals each have their own personality, like Frances the tiger.

“She’s the most social,” Fox said. “She loves people. She loves hanging out.”

Fox noticed Frances was lonely in lockdown.

“Her favorite place to hang out is over by the windows, and then people stopped showing up, she realized that and stopped hanging out around those windows as much,” Fox explained.

When the zoo reopened at limited capacity, and with social distancing protocols in place, Frances seemed satisfied seeing reflections on the other side of the glass again, even with face coverings.

“She’d be on the opposite side of the exhibit, and she’d come running to the window,” Fox said.

A kind of excitement we can all relate to as we try to navigate a new normal and find ways to socialize safely.

“It’s very good to have things back to normal,” Primate Area Supervisor Sabrina Barnes said. “And I think it’s good for these guys,” she said pointing to a group of monkeys watching the interview. “Because, like I said, they like watching people.”

Now that the weather is cooling off, zookeepers say this is the perfect time to visit, as the animals are more active. Make sure to reserve your spot as the zoo is still operating at limited capacity.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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