Sometimes, when the weather is at its worst - bone-chilling cold or skin-melting hot - I catch myself feeling just a hint of envy for our zoo's office staff. Apart from a quick dash from the parking lot to the office, they can choose to remain inside all day when the weather is bad, just checking email, pushing paper, and answering the phones. Some days, it seems like it would be a nice break.
April first is never one of those days.
Today, we salute the long-suffering zoo receptionists, secretaries, and other office support staff who are spending the day fielding endless calls for "Don Key", "Mr. Fox", "Ms. Ellie Phant", and other made up names. Usually the person who is calling the zoo doesn't realize that they are a victim of a prank; sometimes they refuse to believe it, asking over and over again for the person answering the phone to check.
There are occasionally other prank calls - I have a tiger in my bathroom (yes, we all saw The Hangover) or inquiries to buy monkeys (though, to be fair, we get these quite seriously plenty of times too). If it weren't for the fact that I know that we'd get an actual emergency if we did this, I would advocate just unplugging the phones altogether on days like today.
Occasionally, when I'm in a particularly vindictive mood, I'll contemplate an April Fool's prank on visitors, aimed especially at those who are bothering the animals (or me). I have so far managed to restrain myself because a) I love our animals and don't want to use them in a prank and b) I love my job and don't want to get fired.
Pranks within the zoo staff are permissible, however, provided that they don't in any way compromise the animals or safety (in that order of importance). As for the animals pulling pranks on the staff... well, that happens most days.
Interestingly enough, the concept of zoo April Fool's jokes goes back hundreds of years. As early as the 1770's, the "Washing of the Lions" prank has made the rounds in London. First at the royal menagerie in the Tower of London, later at the London Zoo, tickets were sold to allow spectators to view the lions getting their annual bath in a magnificent pageant... only to arrive and find that no such spectacle was going to take place.