Behind the scenes at the Binghamton Zoo

By Matt Porter

January 29, 2014 Updated Jan 29, 2014 at 6:24 PM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Off the trails of the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, there's another zoo few people see.

It's a network of buildings filled with more chain-link enclosures visitors never see.

The zoo uses these buildings to keep the 208 animals safe during the cold winter season.

Dave Orndorff, animal curator for the Binghamton Zoo, said most animals have their own enclosures they can be brought into at night and during bad weather.

"You sort of think of it like your house at home. You've got your living room which is up in front," Orndorff said, "Then you have your bedrooms up on the sides. Each of the kids might have their own bedroom, their own space to get away from each other."

The separate areas also give the zoo the ability to slowly introduce a new animal to its partner.

The zoo recently obtained a female black and white ruffed lemur named Manabe, to be introduced to an older male, Zeus, already living in the exhibit.

"They're just learning to get along with each other, it's a brand new pairing," Orndorff said.

Zookeeper Elice Newman is one of nine staff members who take care of animal needs throughout the winter.

"We'll do things like heated water pools to keep the water from freezing or add extra hay or leaves so they can bed down when they need to if they're outside," Newman said.

Only a few of the zoo's more than 80 species live in cold climates, even the African black-footed penguins can't stand the cold.

"When it gets below 40 degrees, they can't handle the temperatures, they can't stay warm," Orndorff said.

Three weeks ago, the zoo lost one of its three red pandas to a heart attack.

Orndorff said it had nothing to do with the extreme weather.

"It was just one of those things that happened unfortunately," he said.

Animals and habitats are checked frequently, most between three and five times a day.

At night, temperatures of all the exhibits are checked on a regular basis.

"The keepers here are extremely vigilant and extremely aware," Orndorff said.

The Binghamton Zoo is inspected by the USDA annually.

It is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Out of more than 8,000 animal parks, it is only one of 250 to have that accreditation.