People(less). What are zoos without people? COVID-19 forced many American zoos to close or to reduce visitor capacity and enforce social distancing. These circumstances caused a conceptual collision — humans escaping quarantine looking at animals who are permanently quarantined.
Safe/Home(s). Zoo animals represent two types of “home”: (1) their zoo enclosures, and (2) the range of their species as utilized by non-captive individuals and communities. Since the 1980s, zoos have emphasized their role in conserving species by displaying and studying captive animals. The biggest threat to wild animals is habitat destruction — loss of home. The pandemic slogans Stay Home and Safer At Home highlight the complexities of the ideas of SAFE and HOME when it comes to zoo inhabitants, people, and the planet we share.
Zoo(m). COVID-19 forced people to interact digitally — to temporarily inhabit boxes in digital zoos — and to reconfigure their notions of space, place, and connection. People could only view zoo animals via webcams — enclosures within enclosures — and wild animals via nature preserve videos and drone footage. We can now envision the possibility of fewer enclosures with more connection. What will this mean for the conception of future zoos?