Animals surprise observers as humans go wild during eclipse at zoo

Animals surprise observers as humans go wild during eclipse at zoo

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Nearly 9,000 people from around the United States and six different countries piled into Riverbanks Zoo and Garden on Monday to see more than the solar eclipse.

"We want to see what the animals would look like [during the eclipse]," said Melissa Albritton of Charlotte.

Park goers watched animal activity throughout the zoo as the hours passed, but their attention immediately turned to the sky as the moon started to partially dance with the sun.

"I'm looking up at the moon right now," said 4-year-old Sophie.

While some were watching the eclipse, others in the zoo made their way to the Siaming exhibit where the unexpected happened.

"The siamings started calling about 15 minutes before totality, which is when I think it started feeling strange out here," said Riverbanks Zoo adjunct scientist Adam Hartstone-Rose. "So, they started at that time. And then, they were calling really raucously and, unlike normal when they usually build down at the 10-minute mark, they just kept going right up until totality. And then they went silent, which is something I've never heard of for siamings. They always kind of slow down and, instead, it was just a split second change and it was exactly as the sun was obliterated by the moon."

But as the siamings went silent, the human species went wild. As the park goers continued talking during totality, there still was not a peep from the Siamings.

"I think they were looking at us and kind of surprised by our reaction," said the Herbert family.

However, the Siamings weren't the only animals that surprised the zoo scientists. The flamingos went wild right up until the time that things went dark. Then, they huddled up together like they do at night.

"It's astonishing," said Hartstone-Rose. "I mean, I'm still processing it all. We saw publishable, outlandish behavior from almost all of our exhibits and things, as far as I know, that have never been documented for some of these species.

While eight to 10 of the 12 species being watched on Monday responding in unique ways, scientists say now they will work to process what it all means. One thing, however, is for sure. History was made at Riverbanks.

"We've done something today that is going to have a lasting impact on the science of animal behaviors in eclipses in years to come," Hartstone-Rose said.

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