Research Day: “Night” in the Night Exhibit

To: Woodland Park Zoo
From: Matthew Baldwin
Date: Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 4:52 PM
Subject: Are the lights on in the nocturnal house at night?

Hi! A friend and I visited your fine zoo recently. Later that night, over beers, we joked about breaking in and revisiting the nocturnal house, because we loved the bushbabies so.

It was just a joke (honest), but it got us to wondering: if we had infiltrated the nocturnal house at, say, midnight, would the lights be on? Would not having a "day" period every 24 hours do to the nocturnal animals what living in a constantly-lighted house would do to you or I?

Bonus question: for nocturnal animals in the wild, what happens during an eclipse? Does that, like, totally mess with their heads?

Matthew Baldwin

* * *

To: Matthew Baldwin
From: Woodland Park Zoo
Date: Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 7:24 AM
Subject: Re: Are the lights on in the nocturnal house at night?

Dear Matthew,

No need to infiltrate; the lights are indeed on during our nighttime in the Night Exhibit. We simply swap time periods.

The animals would find it difficult to sleep without daytime periods. Behavioral effects of lack of sleep with animals hasn't been greatly studied in non-primates, however you'd probably expect to find situations of decreased appetites and possibly aggressiveness.

An eclipse, whether solar or lunar, probably wouldn't have much of an effect on wild animals. The relatively short periods of time these occur within might cause a minor disruption of their routines but most likely nothing long term.

We hope you bet a beer on this one!

Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle, WA

9 thoughts on “Research Day: “Night” in the Night Exhibit

  1. omg this fills me with all kinds of joy. i just LOVE it when my favorite bloggers write letters. is that weird?

    in fact, wouldn’t it be the most super effing awesome thing ever for there to be a big list of people for bloggers to write letters to? no requisite questions or anything, just a list of people/organizations that people are interested in hearing from. interested bloggers could select the letter recipient on a first-come basis, write the letter, and then post it along with the response. there would not be room in my heart to contain all that joy.

  2. You got a response? I’m so jealous. For the last year and a half, I’ve been trying to find out how one might milk a platypus (say, for a baby orphaned platypus), and the Sydney Zoo won’t return my emails.

  3. Lani:

    They would probably use artificial formula for the poor baby orphaned platypus, rather than milking one. Unless they could find a surrogate. It’s S.O.P for most orphaned mammals (monotremes, whatever).

  4. Next time you’re in the Nocturnal House, crane your neck up and have a gander at the ceiling. You can see the light fixtures that are on at night. There’s actually an explanatory placard about this in the entrance hallway of the exhibit… you know, the dark foyer where you stand while your eyes adjust. Unfortunately, as you wait for your pupils to dilate, one thing you can’t do is read.

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