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Covid 19 took the 'oo' out of my zoo!

Page 2

Adrian Cloonan

Zookeepers were still required to go about their daily routines, feeding, cleaning up and caring for a range of Australian and international species. Veterinarians were still called upon to provide their medical knowledge; animal births still occurred; maintenance still had to be undertaken; management and project teams still needed to form re-development plans; and pre-arranged animal transfers between zoos went on. 

Moreover, there needed to be new ways of keeping staff apart, whilst allowing them to carry out their tasks. Staff who could work from home were urged to do so. Re-opening had to be thoroughly planned, allowing for a previously unknown virus, with urgent sanitizing procedures to be implemented. These included strict safety measures, as this was a zoonotic disease, ie. it transferred from animals to humans. Could it be re-transferred from humans back to animals? WZ took great care that their zoo would not allow this to occur.

According to insiders, it took a week or two for the free-ranging animals to realise something was up. No bus tours laden with excited, screaming children driving through their enclosures. No groups of seniors oohing and aahing at the proximity of giraffe.

All sorts of things happened. Eland groups started sitting on roads, where previously they would have been in the way of tour vehicles on the 11 km route. The five male giraffes appeared somewhat bemused: no longer able to stick their heads into the vehicles to the delight of visitors, they resorted to following zookeeper vehicles, ever hopeful the keeper would stop and offer food.  Rhinoceros roamed the open savannah area, apparently oblivious to the lack of traffic, though the introduction of bull Kifaru to female Kipenzi proved fruitless in the early days.

The meerkats, in their display alongside the restaurant (which allowed diners to watch their antics), lacked stimulation, they couldn’t see children crouching down to their height. The lion cubs also missed human interaction, and were often photographed by zookeepers sitting, quietly watching the public viewing area, now deserted. The three gorillas (father and two sons) sat gazing at the now-empty glass panel. Kangaroos, emus and koalas did their normal thing – graze and sleep. Surely the animals were wondering what the hell was going on?  

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