How the Coronavirus Crisis is Impacting Zoo Animals



A recent news story out of New Zealand sheds light on the enduring bond between humans and animals. At Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch, animals are still congregating at the usual time for their daily “meet the public” appointments, even though the zoo is closed amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

“People provide a great real-life stimulation for the animals, some of our very social animals, such as kea, are thinking something odd is up,” Nathan Hawke, a zookeeper at Orana, told The Guardian.

Zookeepers are still showing up at the meet the public appointments for giraffes and rhinos to keep up routine (the rhinos are used to getting belly rubs at their 3:15 meeting), but it isn’t the same.

The Orana team has had to offer animals extra stimulation now that the zoos are empty. The zookeepers have been letting some animals like the park’s llamas go on long walks to visit other parts of the zoo in order to give them new experiences. They’ve also added extra toys to some animals’ exhibits and have even taken to spraying new perfume in hiding spots within the lions’ enclosure in order to keep them on their toes. For the keas, which are a type of parrot, zookeepers have been playing unusual sounds.

“[Lockdown] is forcing us to think outside the square and go above and beyond for our precious animals,” Hawke said. “It’s about maintaining a new normal and filling the gap that the visitors would otherwise fill.”

During the uncertain times of the coronavirus, at least one thing is for sure—the relationship between humans and animals is both unique and unshakable. 


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