MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- There are 200 acres of animal exhibits to explore at the Milwaukee County Zoo, and this weekend, patrons were given a rare behind-the-scenes pass -- to go where the zookeepers go!
The Milwaukee County Zoo's "Behind-the-Scenes Weekend," sponsored by Prairie Farms Dairy Saturday, March 14th and Sunday, March 15th allowed zoo visitors to take tours of many zoo locations not normally open to the public.
Behind-the-Scenes Weekend is designed to give visitors a new perspective and appreciation of the work that takes place “behind closed doors” at the zoo.
Zoo Pride volunteers served as tour guides, and tours were free with regular zoo admission.
On Sunday, March 15th, zoo volunteers led groups of 10 down a dimly-lit corridor to the "winter quarters." That's where animals from Africa, Asia and South America hang out during the winter.
"It probably stays about 50 degrees or above down here. We`ve got to make sure that we don`t let them out so they don`t get frostbite on their ears or horns and don`t slip on the snow and ice," Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser said.
Along the guided tours, animals' names were revealed, along with fun facts about each one. Bryan Kitt and his two daughters got an up-close look on Sunday morning.
"It was cool. You got to see where they keep the lions and tigers and stuff in the winter and at night. It was interesting," Kitt said.
Lauren Schnelle and her fiance are Zoo Pass members, and they were at the zoo Sunday, March 15th to take part in the behind-the-scenes tour.
"We come out here quite a bit and we just wanted to come out and see more of what was going on," Schnelle said.
They waited in line for more than 30 minutes for a chance to see what's behind closed doors.
"It`s very cool that they let us come and see what we don`t get to see every day," Schnelle said.
The "winter quarters" tour is one of the most popular behind-the-scenes tours at the Milwaukee County Zoo.
Those who took part in this Behind-the-Scenes Weekend at the zoo got to experience the following:
- Hippos: Hippos are some of the most fascinating (and enormous!) animals at the Zoo. Learn interesting facts about these African animals, including that young hippos ride piggyback on their mothers in deep water.
- Small Mammals’ Kitchen: Visit the kitchen where meals are prepared for our small mammal residents, and see the many different types of food they eat.
- Zoo Train Shop: Talk to our train engineers, sit in a train coach and examine the train engines. Learn about our steam engine and coal powered trains.
- Elk Barn: How does an elk shed his antlers? What do elk eat? Learn answers to these questions and even more fun facts about these great North American animals.
- Zoo Commissary: Did you know the Zoo has its very own grocery store on grounds? Tour this unique area to see how food for the animals is stored, and marvel at the huge selection of items!
- Winter Quarters: Go underground from the Big Cat building and see where our warm-weather animals live during the cold winter months. See our hoof-stock animals in their heated environment.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Milwaukee County Zoo.