A young tapir named Dozer the Wildlife World Zoo

Where are my people? A young tapir named Dozer takes tentative steps around the Wildlife Zoo. Dozer was  born Jan. 11.

Wildlife World Zoo animals have been adventuring while the public is away, but staff members there say the star attractions miss their visitors. The Litchfield Park zoo, one of the West Valley’s biggest attractions, has been closed during the pandemic but is planning to reopen next month.

Kristy Morcom, a spokeswoman for Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park, said the zookeepers have been taking animals through the public walkways to visit other areas of the park.

“It’s not only enrichment for those animals, but it’s also enriching for the surrounding animals, because animals in other exhibits might not be used to a warthog walking by or getting a visit from an armadillo,” she said.

Morcom said penguins, sea lions and giraffes normally love getting visitors from around the park.

“They’re very inquisitive and curious as to what’s going on and what animals are near,” she said.

The park’s macaws who are used to greeting families and chatting with kids have become very interested in what their neighbors are up to, she said. 

She said most of the macaws in the park are former pets who have been donated, so they really miss having people to interact with on a daily basis.

However, these people-loving birds are not the only ones.

“We have animals that you can tell definitely miss the public,” Morcom said.

The park is planning to reopen after Labor Day weekend, she said. But much like all other businesses, there will be safety and health precautions.

She said guests will be required to wear masks, and social distancing will be adhered to. Hand sanitizing stations will also be positioned throughout the park, she said.

People wearing masks has been an adjustment for the animals.

“The animals were not used to their caregivers’ faces being covered up, so that was an adjustment,” Morcom said. “I think our primates were definitely the most interested in the masks.”

The park prides itself on its interactive activities, but she said some of them, such as the “Touch Pool,” may be temporarily closed just after the park reopens.

However, the goal is to have as many of the interactive activities open as possible, she said.

“We feel like when people have that one-on-one interaction with wildlife,” she said. “That’s when they’re truly inspired to want to conserve and protect those animals.”

On top of the new safety precautions, Morcom said everyone at the park is excited to share newly “revamped” exhibits as well as a new tiger exhibit that will be open shortly after the park reopens.

The new safari park addition will also be open, she said. It is several acres filled with some species the park has never seen before, including African pygmy hippos.

She said the safari park area opened just about a month before the park had to close, so many people were not able to see it.

Despite the changes with wearing masks and all the new fun the animals have been having, she said everyone at the zoo is ready for it to open.

Morcom said, “No doubt, the animals and the employees are all excited to have the doors reopened and have all of our visitors and guests back.”