Tips for keeping Brookfield Zoo Chicago's animals (and your family) healthy, happy, and safe

Each year, approximately 2 million people enter the gates of Brookfield Zoo Chicago. Our guests can visit nearly 3,500 animals, catch Dolphins in Action, attend a zoo chat, feed a giraffe, learn about our field research programs, grab a bite to eat, and even take a spin on our carousel or Anniversary Ferris Wheel. We have some tips to help ensure that both our guests and residents remain healthy, happy, and safe. 


• While most of our guests know that feeding zoo animals is ALWAYS prohibited, people sometimes throw snacks to the Canada Geese that waddle around the zoo. Sometimes, they beg for our crackers, fruit gummies, chips, fruit, and other tasty treats. However, wild geese should be eating seeds and grasses! Feeding wild geese can also promote the spread of disease and aggressive behaviors. The less that guests feed the geese, the less that the geese will pester families dining in the park.
• On a related note, please remember to throw away or recycle all wrappers, containers, etc. Small pieces of plastic or foil could find their way into an animal’s mouth or local waterways. 
• We know that it can be hard to resist throwing coins into a fountain, pool, or water feature. However, these can be extremely dangerous for the animals who call Brookfield Zoo Chicago “home”. Unfortunately, some of our residents have swallowed coins, which has required medical attention. If that penny is burning a hole in your pocket, find a penny press machine so you can turn that coin into a souvenir. BONUS: this money will help fund one of the Zoo’s many animal care or conservation programs!
• We understand that it can be disappointing when your favorite zoo animals are snoozing during your visit. Some animals sleep most of the day. For example, male lions sleep approximately 23 hours per day! Some zoo species are nocturnal. Some moms may have had a rough night with their infant. So, they’ll appreciate it if you let them catch those extra zzzzz’s!
• Strolling through our free-flight bird areas, such as the parakeet aviary at Hamill Family Wild Encounters, can be exhilarating. If you’ve ever noticed, you must walk through two sets of doors to enter and exit these free-flight areas. This is to ensure that the birds don’t leave the safety of their habitat. Please remember to not hold doors open for too long when passing through!
• Hold on to your hat! No, seriously, hold onto your hat…and sunglasses, keys, etc. As you might imagine, these items do NOT make for healthy snacks for the animals and could potentially harm them.
• Please remember that you can always seek out the nearest staff member if you have a question or concern! We look forward to your next visit.

Jessica Whitham, Ph.D.,
Animal Welfare Biologist
Published May 10, 2024