Zoos are closed. Here's how the National Zoo is keeping the animals happy and healthy

Inside look at how zoos care for animals during coronavirus pandemic
Inside look at how zoos care for animals duri... 02:30

Last Updated Apr 11, 2020 8:24 PM EDT

Zoos are closed, but unlike theaters and stadiums, they cannot go dark. Animals need constant care. And like us, they're threatened by coronavirus.  

Like zoos across the nation, the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington is closed, but behind the gate, the keepers and animals are as busy as, well, a beaver.
 
A top priority here now is keeping the animals and the people safe from the coronavirus.
 
Brandie Smith, the zoo's deputy director, said that when the tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive, they "immediately implemented protocols to keep all of our cats safe. So our tigers, our lions, our bobcats, our cheetahs — all of them."

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Courtesy of the National Zoo


It's not just the big cats. Gorillas, chimpanzees and other great apes are also susceptible to some human diseases.
 
For anyone who needs a break from all the bad news, take a lesson from 5-year-old Lily Walters of Virginia, who loves taking virtual field trips to the zoo
 
"Normally, people come here and they see animals and their own sense of wonder and inspiration, and we don't want them to lose that, that's really important in a time like this," Smith said. 

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CBS News

The wonder of life is on display on the cheetah cam, where echo just gave birth to four healthy cubs.

There's an unusual take on the wonder of motherhood with a wallaby joey who spends most of his time in his mother's pouch.
 
Redd, a 3-year-old orangutan, and his mom are a bit more outgoing on the high wire. 

And this being spring, the wonder of love has infected many animals here, including the flamingos, who are doing a synchronized mating dance.

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CBS News


  If you miss the party scene, maybe a lemur birthday party will help.
 
Tyler Johnson and his family are disappointed the zoo is closed but that the keepers are still on the job brightened his day.
 
 "It's also just nice to know that they care so much that they will just keep working during anything," Johnson said. "Even a pandemic."
 
Eventually we'll get through this and zoos will reopen. Then we can all join Alice, the National Zoo's dancing crane, in jumping for joy.

  • Chip-Reid_bio_140x100_bw.jpg
    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.