COVID-19 and Zoos
How Is the Wildlife Industry Reacting to the Coronavirus Pandemic?
The COVID-19 outbreak changed the way the animal industry works. This pandemic will be remembered as one of the greatest health challenges in the 21st century. With each day, we learn more and more about the virus, and how N95 masks can protect, but still, we don’t have a great understanding of how it affects different animals.
As of now, animals like tigers, domestic cats, lions, domestic dogs and mink have positive cases of coronavirus. Some have a respiratory disease while others a simple asymptomatic infection. Currently, there’s an ongoing investigation in Holland about the possible transmission in zoos.
In this article, we are going to discuss how COVID-19 impacts the animals in the zoos and their funding.
Let’s get right into it.
The Global Trade of Wildlife is Suffering
Most experts think that the COVID-19 outbreak came from a market in Wuhan, China, that sells wild animals like bats. This event put the spotlight on the global wildlife trade. Tons of organizations started urging China and other countries to ban their wet animal markets, stop the illegal trafficking and killing of wild animals.
As a result of the initial outbreak, China banned all farming and consumption of wildlife only to remove the ban a few months later.
More and more non-governmental organizations want the entire world to erase the practise of selling live and dead animals for food as a way to prevent future pandemics. Only time will tell what is going to happen to the global wildlife trade in the future.
Zoo Animals are Also Catching Coronavirus
COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease which means that humans got it from animals. It seems that now animals can also get infected from humans.
Recently, a tiger from the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19. Authorities think that the tiger, along with six other cats, got the disease from an asymptomatic zookeeper. The chief vet at the zoo confirmed that the cats were showing symptoms like dry cough since the end of March.
Since then, the CDC has said that there is no evidence showing that pets can spread coronavirus to people or that they are the source of the outbreak in the US.
How Does the COVID-19 Impact the Animals?
As part of the national lockdown, most zoos around the world are currently closed. Some zookeepers report that the most intelligent and social animals like gorillas, otters and meerkats are missing human attention. Even though nobody is going to watch them, many animals are craving to meet new people.
While some animals are suffering from lack of human attention, others are making the most of their privacy. For example, a panda in Honk Kong got pregnant after more than 10 years of attempts at natural mating. This event shows that COVID-19 can have a positive effect on zoo animals.
How the Coronavirus Affects the Funding of Zoos and Aquariums?
The COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented event for zoos and aquariums. Most of them around the globe are currently closed, but the animals still need care. That’s a huge concern because, like any other business, they need money to function. Some countries continue to support their zoos by offering them funding and emergency packages. Other countries don’t do that.
Also, there’s a lack of clarity around when zoos and aquariums can open again. In most countries, going to the zoo or aquarium are listed as either leisure and tourist activities, not as essential activities or services. That means that their funding is not secure.
Many zoos and aquariums are in talks with the government because they fear that they might not survive the outbreak. Smaller zoos, in particular, are the most in danger because they may have enough to maintain operations for a week or two without visitors. Some of the bigger zoos might have enough money to survive a month of being closed down, but after that, it will become increasingly hard.
Also, a lot of funds to field projects are being cut. That's because everyone is trying to hold on to their money. The zoos that are the most in danger are the private ones. They don’t have access to government funding and may struggle to survive.
It’s even worse for animals that live in small organizations that can’t find any funds to support themselves. Also, there’s the problem of movement restriction. Animals just like people need to move, especially if their zoos are closing down due to lack of funding.
However, zoos have no idea who is going to accept to take these animals with COVID-19 still spreading. Nobody can be certain when the crisis is going to be over and how soon zoos and aquariums can back to normal. Only time will tell.
To summarize, the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way zoos and aquariums operate. Most of them are not considered an essential business which means that they aren’t open for visitors. That creates a lot of problems because the animals are used to getting human attention.
Also, there’s the problem of funding. Most zoos and aquariums don’t have enough money to support themselves for more than a month, and nobody knows who is going to take care of the animals. They still need food and daily care.
Some animals may catch coronavirus, which leads to more reservations about opening up the zoos and aquariums. As of now, nobody knows how exactly they are going to get back to normal.