What We Learned By 'Bringing The Zoo To You'


During our temporary closure, Brookfield Zoo decided to "Bring The Zoo To You" every weekday with live videos featuring the animals here, hosted by our Animal Care Specialists. Between March 18 and June 30, we featured a live video every weekday on Facebook, while we also featured live videos on Instagram every Tuesday and Thursday between April 9 and June 16. In total, we filmed 95 BTZTY videos, all of which have been saved to watch anytime on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Regular viewers of the Bringing The Zoo To You videos came to recognize the voice behind the camera, Lynette Kleisner, asking their questions and chatting with our care staff. Kleisner, Brookfield Zoo's videographer, filmed most of the videos and shared her experiences getting the chance to not only film all the animals here but also learn from our knowledgeable animal care staff just like viewers did.

BZ: How much did you enjoy filming every Bringing The Zoo To You chat?

LK: At first, I was pretty nervous about filming the BTZTY chats. The past Facebook Live videos we'd done had involved several people monitoring and asking questions, but with BTZTY, it was just me doing everything - filming, reading comments and asking questions. If there was a technical difficulty (and we had our share of them!) it was all up to me to troubleshoot. I settled into the routine pretty quickly, though, and began to look forward to doing the videos every day.

BZ: You got to work closely with animal care staff, what was their experience like hosting the chats?

LK: Some of the animal care staff, like the staff at Hamill Family Wild Encounters & Hamill Family Play Zoo and those who do Zoo Chats during the summer, are very used to speaking about their animals. For them, they basically just gave their usual presentation like it was any other day.

Other animal care staff were a bit reluctant to participate, but after I coached them through the process and assured them they were basically just having a conversation with me, they were able to relax and enjoy themselves. Some people really got into the chats and even brought props and special guest animals, and that was great for both the audience and me! The staff who hosted multiple BTZTY videos became quite comfortable and had fun, and I enjoyed the repertoire that I developed with certain hosts, like Dana Vinci, Craig Stevens, and Mike Masellis.

One of the things I have seen over the years, and I really hope this series showed, is that animal care staff absolutely LOVE their animals, and they love sharing facts about the species and the animals they personally care for. I have yet to meet a care specialist who views their job as "just" a job. They are all incredibly passionate about their work, and they do everything in their power to give their animals the best lives possible. I think the more relaxed atmosphere of the Facebook Live videos, where they could just have a casual conversation and not worry about time constraints, really let that aspect of their jobs come through.

BZ: Can you share any funny stories or anecdotes that came up while filming?

LK: One of my favorite anecdotes happened during the giraffe video. They were eating browse, and at one point, someone (I believe it was Jasiri) starting dropping bits of browse on my head. It was so hard not to crack up laughing as willow branches rained down upon me.

Later on, of course, I ended up laughing during chats all the time, which brings me to two of my favorite moments during Dana's videos. I'd told her before the marsupial chat that she should hop over to the wallabies after we were done with kangaroos, and I was surprised when she actually did! I was laughing so hard that I almost couldn't stop. During the pygmy hippo chat, Dana mentioned "Groundhog Day" in relation to the lockdown, and then a minute or so later, Adele raised her head to reveal a groundhog sharing her food. Neither of us had seen the groundhog wander up so, not only was it a complete coincidence, it was a perfect reveal.

BZ: What was your favorite thing you learned during the chats?

LK: I'm not sure if I could pick a favorite fact that I learned during the Facebook Live videos. After working as the videographer here for 14 years, I've picked up a lot of knowledge about the majority of the animals, but for some reason, I've never known much about fish and reptiles - perhaps because we just have so many! I ended up really enjoying filming those videos because I got to learn a lot of new things, especially about the echinoderms. There were also a few times in some of the other videos where I was so fascinated by a care specialist's answer to a question that I forgot what question to ask next.

BZ: If you had to pick five BTZTY chats for someone to watch, which ones would you pick?

LK: If I had to pick five chats for someone to watch, I'd pick the following videos: Hudson II, which demonstrates some of the innovative enrichment we offer the animals as well as training, Blanding's turtles, which talks about the conservation efforts we're involved with right here in Illinois, Coral reefs, which mentions how important they are to our oceans, Malena Amur tiger, which is a great example of the amazing veterinary care every animal here receives, and goats, just because who doesn't love goats?

Don't miss the next blog post from the Chicago Zoological Society. Sign up for the Brookfield Zoo email newsletter and receive regular updates and special offers direct to your inbox.

Posted: 7/21/2020 10:58:39 AM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


Subscribe to our Blogs!