As the Covid-19 lockdown continues, many zoos across the world are feeling the strain. One zoo in Germany has recently gone as far as to say without money coming in to feed its residents it may have to start euthanizing animals to keep afloat during the hard times, even suggesting that some animals might have to be fed to others.
“If – and this is really the worst, worst-case scenario – if I run out of money to buy feed, or if it should happen that my feed supplier can no longer deliver due to new restrictions, then I would slaughter animals to feed other animals,” Verena Caspari, the director of Neumünster Zoo in Schleswig-Holstein, told German newspaper, Die Welt.
The zoo has also drawn up contingency plans for each animal, which notes the animals that will be up for slaughter first.
“Before that, we could of course also try to sell animals to other companies. But that's not so easy with all animals,” Caspari said.
With Covid-19 social distancing measures resulting in the closure of most recreational spaces, many zoos are struggling to cover their high costs. Unlike some attractions, Zoos still have to pump in huge sums of money even if they are not open, as they continue to provide care for their animals, involving huge quantities of fresh food and the employment of zookeepers.
The Association of Zoological Gardens (VdZ) in Germany has requested emergency aid of €100 million from the government to help keep zoos afloat through these extremely tough times. "Unlike other facilities, we cannot simply shut down our farm – our animals must continue to be fed and cared for," Professor Jörg Junhold, President of VdZ and a zoo director in Leipzig, said in a statement.
Money and financial assets aren’t the only problems. The stakes are especially high as zoos often contain endangered species that are part of vital conservation breeding programs. "A possible loss of this valuable animal population would be a bitter setback for our struggle to preserve biodiversity and would, therefore, amount to a catastrophe," said Junhold.
The US Association of Zoos & Aquariums has made a similar plea, asking the public to contact Congress and express support for financial support packages for accredited zoos, aquariums, and museums during the Covid-19 pandemic.
All in all, it’s a precarious situation for many zoos around the world. Although, on a positive note, many zoo animals have actually been enjoying the recent lockdown thanks to the efforts of keepers around the world to keep them stimulated and entertained. Some zoos have been allowing their less dangerous inhabitants to roam around the rest of the facilities in a bid to keep their brains and bodies stimulated while the zoo is closed, while others are encouraging inter-species friendships so they can entertain each other.
Some animals are positively relishing the peace and quiet: two giant pandas took this time downtime to mate for the first time after spending almost 10 years living together at the park.