Winter at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo Brings out the Animals

Jan 11, 2016

Many Central New Yorkers might not think winter is a good time to visit the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.  But zoo officials beg to differ, and are offering incentives to get visitors through the gates during the typically slower months.   Zoo Director Ted Fox says a mild, snowless December certainly boosted attendance…

A visitor checks out M'Wasi, a male African Lion the zoo recently acquired from the Bronx.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"We've had lots of extra people coming in, enjoying the sunny days, getting close to the animals.  Unlike summer, with the leaves off the trees, the animals are much more visible."

And, suited for our climate.  Fox says a lot of planning goes into their animal selection.

"To make sure the animals that we do have are going to be as comfortable as they can be, from an animal welfare perspective, and ease of care for the staff, the veterinary staff.  So most of the animals, with the exception of the reptiles, which are inside all the time, really enjoy this time of year."

  He says tigers, snow leopards, and red pandas love the snow.  Some of the birds don’t seem to mind the cold, either.  They were talkative when I paid a visit, with a little encouragement from Dan, their keeper.  This Kookaburra from Australia is known as the Bushman's alarm clock, when the families gather for a call at dawn…

Golden Conure, or Parakeet Nueve waves to the camera with Outreach Keeper Sarah Kohler.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

But when it gets too cold or snowy outside, don’t forget more than half of the zoo’s exhibits are indoors.  If you’re lucky, you might just run into Outreach Keeper Sarah Kohler with her friend, Nueve.  She’s a 16-year-old Golden Conure, or parakeet, from Brazil who’s quite the performer. 

Kohler sometimes takes Nueve to schools as part of the zoo’s outreach efforts.  Also inside, you might catch the Siamang Apes having a chat.

"It's a territorial call, it's a duet call.  Both the male and female have parts of the call.  Some days they don't do it at all.  It kinds of depends...if there's a hawk flying over, seeing something that gets them going.  They just want to establish that everyone knows there's two Siamang here, and this is is their territory."

Fox says it can last from 5 minutes to a half hour, and be easily heard on Tipp hill when the primates are outside in warmer temperatures.  Outside is where Fox says visitors are likely to get the best photos of animals in action, and perhaps enter them in the zoo’s annual contest…

A closer look at previous winners of the zoo's photo contest. These are posted in the keeper area of the outdoor bird exhibit. The footprints are from a Turkey Vulture named Vic.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"Just like in wildlife photography, the patient ones get the really awesome pictures.  We continue to use those and are amazed by capturing the animals in positions and playing that we might not see on a regular basis."

Those who bring an actual camera to the zoo through January 31st can get in free.  Fox says for photo quality purposes, mobile devices are not permitted as cameras for the contest.  

For everyone else, admission to the zoo is half-price through February during their "Snow Leopard Days." More information, rules, and entry forms for  the photo contest is at