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Zoo Knoxville plans to observe animals during total solar eclipse

KNOXVILLE (WATE) — While East Tennesseans are keeping an eye on the sky, there’s going to be plenty of action on the ground at Zoo Knoxville as the total solar eclipse passes through on August 21.

There are more than 700 animals at the zoo and staff plans to observe them during the time of totality. The phenomenon is raising questions like, how will animals react when their daily routines are driven by the cycles of night and day?

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Phil Colclough, with Zoo Knoxville.

Shala Sheidler, a great ape keeper at Zoo Knoxville adds, “I think just seeing the animals reaction, is going to make people appreciate the animals.”

It looks like humans won’t be the only ones to notice the total solar eclipse. Zoo keeper Shala Sheidler thinks the chimpanzees will react the most.

“I have seen them react to blimps and hot air balloons and they usually look up in the sky and alarm call and they go and hug their friends and make sure everybody in the group knows and sees it,” said Sheidler.

The sudden change in daylight could stir up some out of the ordinary behavior for these animals, but zoo staff doesn’t expect anything drastic. The total time of the sun being in the dark will last two and a half minutes.

“That’s not going to be enough time for our rhino to say its night time and go to sleep,” said Colclough. “Chickens and birds and animals that go to roost at night or are diurnal, that might impact them a little bit too. It’s really a big unknown, we just don’t know what they’ll do.”

Chuck Hofmeister and his wife are visiting Zoo Knoxville from Texas. They have a prediction on what the animals will do. “They’re going to know that it’s not time to be dark yet and they’re going to exhibit behavior that you won’t see until there’s another eclipse.”

The zoo encourages curious minds to visit and watch what happens with the animals’ reactions.

Colclough said, “If we have a guest here that sees something of note, we would love to know.”

Zoo Knoxville will be open for it’s normal hours on August 21st. For hours and ticket information, visit Zoo Knoxville’s website.