U.S. Zoos Predict the Top 10 Animals to Watch for Strange Behavior During the Eclipse

Many animals may suddenly begin to perform their dusk activities

Photo: Thomas Haupt/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

Glamping with goats and the eclipse. Pet safety and the eclipse. Have you reached peak eclipse yet? If your answer is “Nope!” — well, we’ve got some more pertinent eclipse information for the animal lovers in the audience.

Zoos across the country have been curiously preparing for Aug. 21. These wildlife sanctuaries all agree that the eclipse will be a learning opportunity, and many are enthusiastically opening their gates and inviting the public to watch the solar event. Most are unsure how their wards will react to the phenomenon, but some have offered predictions about which animals may exhibit the most unusual behavior.

According to the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas, some drama may ensue among five species in particular. Education Curator Katie Holloway tells THV11 they include barn owls, armadillos, sloths, elephants and chimps. PEOPLE rounded out the list with five more compelling species.

1. Barn Owls (and other birds, especially song birds)

Although they’re usually asleep in the afternoon, these nocturnal birds might awaken and start looking for food. The Wausau Daily Herald says nocturnal birds, including a variety of owls and nighthawks, have reportedly become active, taken flight or called out during total eclipses. Starlings and other birds may return to their evening roosts, as will fowl and pigeons.

2. Three Ringed (or Three Band) Armadillos

The Little Rock Zoo’s expert says these armadillos can jump up to three or four feet vertically and it’s likely to occur!

3. Sloths

These slow-moving sweethearts might get hungry and go on a “feeding frenzy,” although it will take up to 30 days for sloths to digest whatever they happen to eat during the eclipse. (We suggest watching the eclipse along with them at Oregon’s Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center.)

4. Chimps (and other primates)

The Little Rock Zoo says that chimps (and primates in general) are capable of overreacting to all kinds of things, so it expects these guys to “go bananas.” However, Sean Putney, the Senior Director of Zoological Operations at the Kansas City Zoo, predicts the more intelligent and intellectual animals will respond in ways that are more human-like: “Will they be smart enough to know that this is going to be over in a couple of minutes? Or will they start to move towards their evening quarters as well thinking it’s time for bed? … It’ll be interesting to see.”

The Mother Nature Network recounts a story about chimps who climbed to the top of their structure and turned their heads skyward during a 1984 eclipse.

5. Elephants

The Little Rock Zoo predicts that elephants will make the most noise during the eclipse. They tend to trumpet when things are out of the ordinary, so they may sound off on Monday. Dan Cassidy, the general curator at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, suggests watching the elephants as well. He says if it’s dark enough, they may go back into their barns. Dr. Joel Parrott, president and CEO of the Oakland Zoo, seems to agree. He says that the smarter animals, like elephants, will be more interesting to watch. Dr. Don Moore of the Oregon Zoo is on board with this, too. He says the pachyderms might think it’s dinnertime and start looking for food.

RELATED VIDEO: Ready for the Solar Eclipse? 5 Things to Remember During the Totality

6. Giraffes

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha says the giraffes may behave similarly to elephants and head back to their barns, thinking that nighttime has descended.

7. Whales and 8. Dolphins

Once again, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium predicts unusual behavior, this time amongst sea mammals like whales and dolphins. To “test the waters,” so to speak, Tradewinds Charters out of Depoe Bay, Oregon (known for its year-round pod of gray whales), is offering a two-hour whale-watching tour during the eclipse. And according to Time, Dr. Douglas Duncan of the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado says he witnessed whales and dolphins act strangely in the Galapagos during a 1998 eclipse. He told Time that as the sky darkened, about 20 of the marine mammals surfaced, arching in and out of the water.

9. Llamas

Dr. Duncan also told Time that he’s witnessed llamas act strangely during a 1994 total solar eclipse in Bolivia. He says a pack of llamas suddenly seemed to show interest in the sky, claiming that there were none of the animals around while a group of people observed the event, when out of nowhere, about 15 llamas gathered around them during the partial phase of the eclipse and gazed at the sky along with the humans during the totality of it. “For the life of me, I can’t tell you where they came from,” he said. “When the total eclipse ended, the llamas kind of got themselves into a rough line and they marched away.”

10. Lions (and other big cats)

Dr. Don Moore of the Oregon Zoo thinks that during the eclipse, lions may act more predatory or start looking to be fed. Then again, lions and tigers spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping, so they may never even notice.

In general, many zoos are inviting people to visit during the eclipse and just see what happens. Nashville Zoo invites visitors to watch its new rhinos in particular, using the #NashvilleZoo or #NZooEclipse hashtags. According to WKRN, the rhinos are the zoo’s newest animals and they have a schedule they go by, coming out of their barn at 9 a.m. and returning at 6 p.m. “Before they came here, they were in Africa in a reserve where they spent most of their time outside day and night, so does that change with their behavior? Does it change with light level? Or are they going to be affected by this kind of experience or are they not? It’ll be really interesting to see,” said Jim Bartoo, the zoo’s marketing director.

Finally, Jeff Bullock, Director of the Greenville Zoo says this, “[The eclipse] just throws everybody off. Animals that are on a diurnal structure will go to bed (during the eclipse). Animals that are used to being up at night will get more active … We get a lot of owls, bats, rats and possums,” he said of the local wildlife. “We may see some of those that we don’t usually see when the sun is out.”

Related Articles