Animal Planet’s New Show Takes You Behind the Scenes at the Bronx Zoo

Julie Larsen Maher
Julie Larsen Maher / Julie Larsen Maher

What, exactly, does a zookeeper do? Animal Planet’s new show, The Zoo, takes viewers behind the exhibits, where zoo workers do everything from playing matchmaker for rare birds to helping vision-impaired gorillas navigate the world. The show was filmed over the course of eight months at the biggest metropolitan zoo in the U.S., the Bronx Zoo in New York City, which is home to more than 650 different animal species and the headquarters of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Julie Larsen Maher

In the first episode, zookeepers diagnose and treat a silverback gorilla with glaucoma in what might be the first surgery of its kind. In another vignette, zoo employees, who have hand-raised two tigers abandoned by their mother, work to reintroduce the cubs to both the Tiger Mountain exhibit and other adult tigers they’ll share the space with. In a third, a senior zookeeper monitors two endangered birds as they are introduced as potential mates, and watches carefully to spot a laid egg before it gets crushed by its mother.

The Zoo is a rare look into the day-to-day conservation work that goes on at zoos, whose very existence some animal rights groups see as unethical.

“The series emphasizes that today’s zoos must do more than exhibit animals,” Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo, said in a press statement. “They must have a higher purpose and that purpose is conservation of species in the wild.”

The show premieres Saturday, February 18 at 10 p.m. EST. Trust us, it’s worth staying in for.