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Animals on the move at Tautphaus Park Zoo

A visit to the animal kingdom is a popular weekend activity, but have you ever wondered how South American birds or African penguins relocated to your neighborhood zoo?

Around 175 million people visit a zoo or an aquarium each year, expecting to see animals they’d have to otherwise travel thousands of miles to look at.

And more than 400 animals live at the Tautphaus Park Zoo, making it the largest collection in the state; but the majority are from zoos around the globe.

Animals are moved all of the time, primarily by plane, either to improve their survival plan or enhance a zoo’s collection.

“The spring and the fall are really when we have our shipping opportunities because it’s either too cold or too hot,” said Beth Rich, zoo superintendent. “So for about 4-6 weeks in the spring and the fall is when we do the bulk of our animal transactions.”

Rich said moving an animal is no easy task — this precious cargo lives and breathes and requires food and water.

Shipping out or receiving an animal can take 2 to 3 months.

“We’ll put shavings in here and these are food and water containers which we’ll secure to the door and then we can use a little squeeze bottle to fill the water without having to open the door,” said Rich.

Besides weather, Idaho Falls has other challenges. With a smaller airport, larger animals like lions have to be flown into Salt Lake City and driven to eastern Idaho.

“They really hustle to get them on and off the aircraft quickly and in a nice, secure, comfortable location,” said Rich. “I have to hand it to the airline crews; they do a good job for us.”

It’s something the average zoo goer may not notice…but for the animals, switching up homes is normal.

In fact, in the fall, one of the zebras will move to another zoo.

The Tautphaus Park Zoo is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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