Dedicated Zoo Staff Continues to Care for Animals During Pandemic
Among the heroes are zookeepers. Obviously, captive animals are dependent on the keepers and curators for their care. During the pandemic shut down, zoos have provided a source of education and entertainment for kids and adults too. However, most zoos are dependent on visitor income.
Zoo director at Neumünster Zoo in northern Germany has even admitted that some animals might soon have to be fed to others, if the zoo is to survive. “We’ve listed the animals we’ll have to slaughter first,” Neumünster Zoo’s Verena Kaspari told Die Welt and published on the BBC.
The Neumünster Zoo belongs to an association, which is not covered by the state emergency fund for small businesses in Germany.
In South America, zoos there too are on the verge – but doing their best, like this small facility in Columbia.
As was widely reported, a Malyan Tiger, named Nadia, tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo. This positive COVID-19 test for the tiger was confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory, based in Ames, IA. One other tiger, and the tiger’s neighbors, two African Lions, were also showing the same signs, some lethargy and coughing, and also assumed to be positive for COVID-19. The cats are doing fine, but this instance showed how careful keepers and curators need to be regarding transmission to cats. While it’s still unclear how transmission from a presumably asymptomatic keeper occurred, it’s absolutely unknown as how susceptible cats may be to SARS CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19), and what the difference in species susceptibility may be. Domestic ferrets also have cell receptors “friendly” to the virus, and some zoos do have domestic ferrets in their care.
Also, since we know primates are typically susceptible to human viruses, it’s very likely they can become very ill as a result of SARS CoV-2, although – so far – zero instances have been reported at an accredited zoo anywhere in the world.
In addition, while it’s still unclear where or exactly how SARS CoV-2 originated, bats may have been a part of that story. Bat species are known to be the host of many coronaviruses. This novel coronavirus may be able to circulate in certain bat species, therefore may pose a risk to bats in human care as well and for all we know, the humans who care for the bats – as so little about this novel corona virus is understood.
Arguably, accredited zoos do a FAR more responsible job of caring for their animals compared to roadside zoos (as demonstrated in the Tiger King on Netflix). Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are likely to have more budget in reserve. Still, most all zoos are non-profits, and some have already laid off workers.
If there was ever time a time to support your local zoo or aquarium – no matter where you happen to live in the world – this is it. And to say thank you to the dedicated keepers and other staff caring for the animals zoos and pandemic.