All animals at Clyde Peeling's Reptiland in Allenwood and T&D's Cats of the World in Penn's Creek are alive and well and being taken care of even if the two Valley zoos are closed to the public, according to zookeepers at both locations.
Inspired by videos of penguins roaming around the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago while they're closed, Reptiland's Jeff Cook and Kathryn Allen starred in their own light-hearted 57-second video in which they walked around the Union County zoo with a snake and a turtle. Reptiland is closed through the end of March.
"They were just joshing around a little bit and making the best of a terrible situation," said director Clyde Peeling. "The animals are doing well. With reptiles and amphibians, the key factors are keeping the temperatures right and keeping them clean."
Reptiland is an AZA-accredited zoo specializing in reptiles and amphibians from around the world, including snakes, alligators, tortoises, lizards, frogs and komodo dragons. There are also emus and parakeets as well as the "Dinosaurs Come to Life" displays.
Reptiland has scaled back to only five zookeepers and suspended the traveling exhibit for the time being. The zoo is usually open year-round, but is closed until at least March 31, Peeling said. It has more than 800 animals.
“At that time we’ll reevaluate the coronavirus situation and make a determination whether or not to reopen," he said.
In addition to feeding these animals, their enclosures must also be cleaned to maintain a healthy environment. To keep the animals properly fed and cared for, essential keeper staff must continue to provide the same excellent husbandry services throughout the shutdown period, however long that might last, despite not being able to let the public visit.
"That doesn't change if we close," said Peeling. "The employees are all dedicated. You don't go into this business thinking you're going to get rich, you do it to take care of the animals. They're coming in every day without fail."
T&D's outside Penn's Creek in Snyder County is currently in its off-season and is scheduled to open the first weekend in May for its 30th season if things are back to normal by then, said co-owner Jennifer Mattive.
"May is our biggest school tour month," she said. "If schools aren't in and we're closed, it will hurt us financially."
All of the animals at T&D's, located outside Penns Creek, are species with origins from around the world, but have been born in captivity and were either unwanted, mistreated or illegally owned in the eastern half of the United States and Canada. They have 300 mammals, including 50 big cats, 50 monkeys, a handful of bears and wolves, and a few hundred birds. They just received five tigers from various licensed facilities.
"We still have to take care of the animals," she said. "We canceled all our volunteers and now it's just my family (of three). It will stay that way until things get better."
T&D's does not receive any government funding. T&D's is funded from the personal retirement savings of the Mattive family along with animal sponsorship from the public, admittance fees during the summer and a small amount of private funding. It was founded in 1990 by Mattive's father, Terry Mattive.