Blog: Conservation Conversations with Jamie

Water Quality Takes a Team

swan at Brookfield Zoo

Here’s a little known fact: August is National Water Quality month. Another little known fact: Brookfield Zoo has an entire team of water quality specialists monitoring all of the water our animal residents come in contact with. It makes sense if you think about it. How in the world do we replicate an animal’s natural environment when we are thousands of miles from their native stomping grounds? The answer is simple: expertly.

Brookfield Zoo was home to the nation’s very first inland dolphinarium.  If you were interested in seeing a dolphin before 1960, you needed to travel to costal states like Florida, Maine, or Vermont where it was easy to pump ocean water into their habitats. Illinois is too far away from an ocean for us to pump ocean into our dolphins’ home, so we needed to create an ocean in the Midwest. Our experts studied the dolphins’ natural habitats and found ways of recreating an ocean environment without the use of any artificial chemicals not normally found in ocean water.  Our original dolphinarium, opened to the public in 1961, was located in-between where Wolf Woods and the Living Coast now stand.  Cleaning the dolphins’ home is no easy task either.  Our experts extensively studied natural filtration and cleaning methods that led to ground breaking techniques still used in our modernized facilities.

Our innovation and commitment to healthy ocean-like and watery environments for our animal ambassadors didn’t stop in the 60s. We continue to lead the way in water quality.  Our current team of experts are tasked with making sure the water ANY of our animals come in contact with mimics the animals’ natural environments, no matter where in the world they would traditionally reside.  Our bears’ water is cleaned and filtered via all natural methods and some fish behind the scenes help keep algae growth to a minimum. The mud you see our pygmy hippos wallow in or our rhinos run through has all been tested and purified by our staff.

We don’t only care for the water for our animal ambassadors. We are also caring for the water our animal interlopers use, too.  Swan Lake is home to many different animals that decided to make lake their home.  Migrating birds, fish, and turtles all live at Brookfield Zoo, and even though they aren’t official animal ambassadors we ensure their habitats are clean and well cared for, too. We monitor oxygen levels, water depth, water temperature, and nutrient content of the natural lake to guarantee that ANY animal living there, not just our resident swan, has a healthy place to call home.

Water Quality Specialist John Kanzai at Brookfield Zoo

Posted: 8/14/2017 6:05:28 PM by Steve Pine

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