Ingenuity is the name of the game at zoos and wildlife parks all around the country. Doors have been closed to the public for several weeks, since the coronavirus lockdown has been put in place. Not only are they looking for revenue generators, but are also finding new ways of keeping the animals stimulated.
The majority of the animal inhabitants have spent most or all of their lives in captivity and have grown accustomed to the regular visitors and performing in shows or exhibitions. Zookeepers are trying to keep the routine going, putting on shows despite the lack of audience.
Terri Irwin, Australian naturalist, conservationist, and owner of Australia Zoo on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, told Al Jazeera, “The animals love and miss our zoo visitors.
“They are used to large groups of people admiring them and telling them that they are beautiful and amazing.”
Irwin, who was married to the late Australian celebrity conservationist Steve Irwin, said the koalas who are accustomed to regularly being held by visitors are now following the staff around in hopes of getting some of the missed affection. .
“It’s more important now than ever, that every animal receives extra attention,” added Irwin.
“We make sure our birds get to fly, our rhinos get lots of back scratches while they’re in their mud baths, and we take our animals out for walks and adventures.”
Monkey see, monkey do
Elsewhere certain primate zoo residents have become accustomed to mimicking the behaviours of the visitors they encounter. Staff are now screening films to help keep then enriched.
“For example, our two female Orang-utans, Kiani and Gabby, at Melbourne Zoo often climb up high, to a platform where they can see visitors through a glassed viewing area, and then mimic what they see visitors doing,” chief executive of Zoos Victoria, Jenny Gray, told Al Jazeera.
“Gabby often tries to look inside visitors’ bags and Kiani copies anyone cleaning. So keepers have been playing movies on the TV screen in the visitor space that the orangutans can see, and have continued to provide the orangutans with enrichment items along with additional keeper interactions.”