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Unique Animal Behaviors Witnessed During Solar Eclipse at Columbus Zoo

COLUMBUS, OH - The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in collaboration with the Ohio State University, embarked on a unique research project to observe animal behaviors during the rare phenomenon of a solar eclipse. This initiative drew a crowd of over 7,000 visitors, eager not only to witness the celestial event but also to observe the reactions of the zoo's inhabitants as daylight dimmed to dusk in the middle of the afternoon.

The primary focus of the researchers and zoo staff was to document any changes in the behavior of selected animals, including elephants, ostriches, sloth bears, red pandas, tufted deer, reindeer, and more. Initial observations revealed notable reactions from the zoo's ostriches and elephants. The ostriches, for instance, displayed a behavior akin to preparing for nightfall by retreating to their barns, engaging in grooming activities typically associated with their nighttime routines. This behavior was anticipated by the researchers, who were curious about the ostriches' response to the eclipse's dusk-like conditions.


Conversely, the elephants' response was less predictable. They demonstrated a heightened sense of activity, gathering together, making unusual chirping sounds, and thumping their trunks against the ground. Such behaviors, particularly from one normally quiet elephant, underscored the significance of the event and provided valuable insights into how these animals perceive and react to sudden environmental changes.


The study, spearheaded by Adam Felts, director of animal wellbeing at the Columbus Zoo, and supported by Shannon Borders, curator of the Heart of Africa, aimed to fill a gap in the scientific understanding of animal behavior during solar eclipses. With eclipses being a rare occurrence, the collaboration between the zoo and the Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources represents a significant step towards enhancing our knowledge of animal behavior under such unique conditions.

Research teams meticulously documented the animals' actions every 15 seconds, capturing detailed data on their activities before, during, and after the eclipse. This methodical approach, described by Courtney Anderson, a doctoral student at the Ohio State University, involved a mix of direct observation and timed intervals to allow researchers brief moments to witness the eclipse themselves.


The study's findings are expected to be compiled and published in the coming weeks, contributing to a broader understanding of animal responses to environmental changes. This research not only highlights the intricate behaviors of zoo animals during unusual events like a solar eclipse but also emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in expanding our comprehension of the natural world. Additional news coverage on this, from other networks, can be found at the following sources:


  1. Columbus Dispatch, "How did Columbus zoo animals react to eclipse? Researchers observed chirps, trumpets, naps," published on April 8, 2024. Available online.

  2. WBNS 10TV, "Elephants, ostriches had biggest reactions to eclipse at the Columbus Zoo," published on April 8, 2024. Available online.


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