Zoo patrons get behind-the-scenes access this weekend

MILWAUKEE -- Hundreds of people jumped the fence this weekend at the Milwaukee County Zoo - figuratively. This weekend the public had special access to actual animal habitats, through the Zoo's Behind the Scenes Weekend.

Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., many Zoo locations not normally open to the public, welcomed guests for special tours. All of the locations were designed to give visitors a new perspective and appreciation of the work that takes place “behind closed doors” at the Zoo.

Once a year for more than two decades, the Milwaukee County Zoo has opened up restricted areas of the Zoo to the public. "This is a way for people to come in and see some things that they wouldn't normally see. Some of the medical treatment areas for the animals, and you get to see the areas where they live, and see some of the food that they like to eat," Jennifer Diliberti, public affairs coordinator with the Milwaukee County Zoo said.

New this year, the event allowed zoo patrons to watch three zookeepers, who are certified divers, swim through the marine tank for cleaning and general maintenance, inside the aquatic and reptile center.

Also new this year - patrons could watch orangutans MJ and Mahal interact with iPads, as part of their ongoing enrichment program.

Zoo patrons also had an opportunity to see where the zoo train is housed for the winter, and learn what it takes to grow thousands of plants and flowers for the park, along with taking a look at the large equipment used by the Zoo's Grounds Department.

"It's just such an interesting thing to see things that you don't normally see. What they feed (the animals), and when they feed them. We have one of the best zoos in the country," zoo patron Leonard Golden said.