Red Pandas Brandywine Zoo

The Brandywine Zoo's red pandas

Do you know how the animals at the Brandywine Zoo keep cozy during the winter months?

"It's one of the number one questions we get from kids--and, frankly, adults too--around this time of year, or when the weather starts to get cold a bit," said Delaware Zoological Society Executive Director Mark Shafer. "They're really curious about how the animals deal with it, and how we deal with the animals dealing with it. So this program was born as a result of that. It's a 30-minute program, livestreaming on the 14th of January, and it's all about us explaining how the animals cope with the winter, how we care for the animals in the winter, and it promises to be very exciting program."

The Animals In Winter program is one of close to a half-dozen special virtual programs slated from the Brandywine Zoo through May. Born out of necessity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the zoo has embraced the reach the programs allow their educators to have. 

"We've started our virtual programming, really in earnest, well in 2020, fledgingly...We found there was interest, certainly, during pandemic times, so we continued. We got some grant money from the Delaware Community Foundation and the Chichester duPont Foundation, which enabled us to expand our efforts," Shafer said. "What we're finding now is that there's interest, not just because of pandemic reasons--though that could be reason enough for lots of people--but there's a real interest, and need really, for this kind of program to be brought into classrooms. So we've double our efforts, actually tripled our efforts, and we have many more programs than we had before. And we're finding that there's a lot of interest in the market for them. So we're very excited."

There's a program for zoo animals being cared for in winter, a fun virtual field trip where a handful of animals will try their hand at their own seasonal detection skills on Groundhog Day, Valentines Day programming, and Earth Day and endangered species focuses. And the zoo has managed to keep all of these activities available and affordable for all, with household registrations running $5, and classroom registrations running $15. 

"We do have a certain number of animals at the zoo, we're relatively small footprint, but our method and our means and our desire is to get outside of the footprint of the Brandywine Zoo," Shafer said. "Talking more broadly about animals and what's endangering their habitats worldwide is a major message that we want to make sure we can promote. Even though there may be some animals we don't particularly have at the zoo, or at our zoo, it doesn't mean we don't care about other animals more broadly."

And that plan seems to be working, as the zoo is garnering a reputation that exceeds the boundaries of Delaware, he said, thanks to their ability to bring their four-footed friends into the homes of those far away. 

"[There] was a sweet spot for schools here on the East Coast, but it's interesting, we're getting interest [further away.] We've had California schools reach out to us as well. We're just getting out that this programming is available," he said. "Virtual programming, for us, is relatively new, but we find that the people, the reviews,  the scores and the feedback we get from teachers--and students, frankly--has been really heartwarming, and we're really pleased with that. But we're finding even outside of the East Coast that we're getting a little reputation further west."

The current slate of programming includes: 

  • Jan. 14 at 11-11:30am, Animals In Winter
  • Feb. 2 at 11-11:30am, Groundhog Day
  • Feb. 11 at 11-11:30am, Love of Animals
  • April 6 at 11-11:30am, Earth Month
  • May 18 at 11-11:30am, Endangered Species

Those interested can register at this link at BrandywineZoo.org.