Observers will watch animals as they anticipate the solar eclipse

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KANSAS CITY - People will have their eyes on the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, but they will also have their eyes on animals. 

Although not in the path of totality, the Kansas City Zoo will still have its own viewing experience. Sean Putney, Senior Director of Zoological Operations, said it will be interesting to see how animals react during the solar eclipse. 

“We have a little employee area where people can use their glasses that they get to look at the eclipse, but more of our animal staff will be looking at their animals and seeing how they react to the eclipse.”

A Planetarium Educator at the St. Louis Science Center said there will not be any dramatic changes in animal behavior. 

“Nature will respond in ways that are somewhat predictable,” Eric Gustafson said. “Cows might go to their barns. Chickens will go to their coop. You’ll hear different insects start to become active. You may see geese flying home to roost and do a U-turn as day comes back. But the animal that will be the strangest is of course the human beings.”

The St. Louis Science Center will host a SciFest the weekend before the eclipse called SciFest: Eclipsed. 

Gustafson said he is excited about seeing totality. 

"I’ve seen a number of solar eclipses," Gustafson said. "I have never seen a total solar eclipse. This could be the last chance for me to see one. So I can’t wait to see it. I’ve been talking about it here in star shows for about 16 years. For 2 minutes and 40 seconds of my life, I can’t wait.” 

And although the science center will not be doing any research with animals specifically on the day of the solar eclipse, scientists there will be watching the animals they have at the center. 

“We do have our Grow exhibit that has some chickens, and I believe they’re gonna put some cameras on them to see how they behave,” Gustafson said. 

Putney said he’s interested in seeing how orangutans react. 

“Orangutans in particular are very smart,” Putney said. “To me they’re the smartest of the great apes, and they have a thought process that really is not rivaled by any other animals other than humans as far as I can see. They can solve problems. They can really think and not just react.”

Putney said the zoo is not worried about animals getting startled because of the slow pace of the eclipse. 

“I don’t think any of the animals will be fearful of it. I think they’ll just react in a way that, 'Darkness is coming and what should I do to prepare for the darkness or a potential storm?'” Putney said. 

Animals don’t need special glasses during the solar eclipse. Putney said there’s nothing to worry about. 

“On a daily basis you don’t see too many animals staring at the sun to begin with, so I would doubt that that habit would change any for this day,” Putney said.

For more Show Me Eclipse coverage, visit