There’s no shortage of stories at the Bronx Zoo.
And viewers can’t get enough of the charismatic animals and dedicated staff featured in the unscripted reality show “The Zoo,” which starts its third season on Animal Planet this Sunday.
“When people recognize us at the zoo or anywhere, the response is to thank us for doing the show,” said Jim Breheny, executive vice-president of the Wildlife Conservation Society Zoos and Aquariums and director of the Bronx Zoo. “People really appreciate the nature of the show, the fact they get to see the intimate workings of the zoo from behind the scenes.”
He said the show has turned viewers into insiders who now come to the zoo with even more knowledge and questions to ask staff.
It’s also given Breheny a rare platform to showcase the modern state of zoos and aquariums.
“For a lot of people, their last memory of a zoo is from 30 or 40 years ago,” said Breheny. “I don’t think they realize how much zoos have evolved in providing animals what they need to be stimulated both physically and emotionally.”
Episodes of the series have shown the extraordinary lengths taken to assist animals, whether it’s crafting a brace for a delicate flamingo leg or trying Cryotherapy to treat an arthritic kangaroo.
“We’ve only scratched the surface,” said Lisa Lucas, executive producer of “The Zoo.” “I believe we’ve got endless story potential at the Bronx Zoo … There is absolutely no predicting what will happen from one day to the next, and unpredictability is what keeps things interesting.”
Lucas teased there will be plenty of adorable baby animals this season.
But the show offers viewers more than some sorely-needed warm-and-fuzzy distractions from a hectic world. This season, they learn how zoo veterinarians worked with doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital to treat and monitor gelada baboons with heart conditions.
Another storyline includes an overview of the construction and complex process of moving sharks into the new "Ocean Wonders: Sharks!" exhibit at the New York Aquarium.
And cameras follow Kathleen LaMattina, Bronx Zoo curator of Animal Encounters (who is also married to Breheny), as she works with a young warthog named Peaches who will help educate visitors about wildlife.
Breheny said the show has given a face and voice to zoo staff who have dedicated their lives to animals.
“I think people really relate to the staff,” said Breheny. “This show has allowed them to tell people why they think what they do is important. If we are going to be successful in wildlife conservation and saving species, we need to be relatable to people.”