Animals – Instead of a Coronavirus Lockdown: Reviving Zoos – Society

Bell/Neuvid/Landau (dpa/lrs) – The head of the Bell Zoo in Hunsrück, Remo Müller, has not forgotten: At Christmas 2020, residents will pull carts and tractors to his animals to give them bales of hay in the middle. From the Corona crisis, he brings apples and nuts, he said.

To the north, the Neuwied Zoo was facing bankruptcy in times of forced closures of zoos – until several donors saved it. The epidemic situation is now easing. The zoos of the Rhineland-Palatinate are also happy with this.

“It’s great that visitors are finally able to move freely again,” says deputy director of the largest facility of its kind in the country in Neuwied, Jasmine Kokenberg. The rush is similar to the year before Corona 2019. “But this year it started earlier. The first visitors came with the first sunshine in February.” There are no longer any requirements for a wreath at Neuwied Zoo, not even in animal houses, where some visitors still voluntarily wear masks.

There are still precautions

Relief is also at the Landau Zoo in the Palatinate: “We are currently approaching the normal operation of the pre-Corona period”, says director Jens-Uwe Heckel. There are still some precautionary measures, such as requiring a mask in closed rooms or, for the time being, waiving suspended meals with too many crowded visitors. In terms of numbers, the year started off very well. Zoo Landau had between 160,000 and 165,000 paying visitors a year on a long-term average in the pre-corona period. The most recent were 140,332 (2020) and 172,817 (2021) – despite partial closures.

So there was an increase in visitor numbers last year. Other zoos have reported the same thing. Remo Müller of Bell Animal Adventure park near Kastellaun explains that restaurants and discos have been temporarily closed, as well as canceled folk festivals and other events, while zoos have already opened again. He counted about 70,000 visitors in Corona 2021 – up from about 55,000 in the pre-coronavirus year 2019. Neuwied Zoo’s commercial director, Hans-Dieter Neuer, reported 177,905 visitors in 2019, 195,940 guests in 2020 and 226,326 Visiting 2021.

The head of Tierpark Müller says the state’s financial aid to tackle the pandemic came late “but then it was very generous”. Last winter, Bell Animal Adventure park opened in the evening and served dinner and vaudeville: “We just had to come up with something. You have to work hard instead of grumbling,” emphasizes the trained chef and zookeeper, who also runs a vegetarian restaurant in his zoo. The new project of his family business near Bell with about 150 animals on an area of ​​\u200b\u200bseven hectares: a 4D cinema. “The seats are shaking and parrots are fluttering in the cinema and there is a smell and rain,” explains Muller, who is from Switzerland. So far, a shorter preview of an even longer animal movie is available this summer.

Donations helped

In the winter of 2020/21, hundreds of thousands of euros were collected from several donors in Neuwied during a short time for the zoo, which was closed at the time due to the coronavirus. An already planned round table with Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) could therefore be canceled at short notice. She thanked the donors at the time, saying: “It shows how important the zoo is to people in and around Neuwied.” According to Neuwied Zoo, it has more than 1,800 animals on 13.5 hectares and about 90 employees, including temporary workers. Even with the shutdown, many costs, such as staff costs and animal feed, are continuing day in and day out. According to the zoo, she needs about 8000 euros per day. The state also paid a low, six-figure sum for assistance.

Landau Zoo has also survived the coronavirus pandemic financially – thanks to special cost control through high spending discipline, explains its director Heikal. It also underscores the “distinguished civic commitment” of many additional animal care and donations to Corona. “It helped us a lot.” He is grateful for that. “This shows us the very high level of acceptance that our zoo and its work have among the citizens, our visitors and also among the political decision-makers.” In Landau about 900 animals can be seen on an area of ​​​​4.5 hectares.

During previous Corona closures of zoos, some animals may have missed visitors. In any case, the director of the Neuwied Zoo, Mirko Thiel, said in February 2021 shortly before reopening, for example, that chimps “also interact with visitors.” Zookeepers had come up with some ideas to keep the monkeys occupied while the zoo was closed. “I think that now that the visitors are back, the chimps will have their daily soap back again.”

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220518-99-334308 / 2

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