Zoos and wildlife reserves around the world have temporarily or permanently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. While some animals have been rehomed, like hundreds of elephants in Thailand, one particular zoo in England cannot rejoice over the current conditions of their animals. The owners of Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon not only announced their permanent shut down but also said that they may need to euthanize animals who cannot find a new home.
With no visitors and expenses continuing to incur during the pandemic, owners of the Wild Planet Trust, which runs the zoo, are faced with difficult decisions. The organization also runs the Paignton Zoo and Newquay Zoo.
On their website, the Frequently Asked Questions page states that their priority is the welfare of the animals. When lockdown restrictions have been lifted, the staff will be looking for homes to relocate the animals, which do exist and these places have already been working alongside the zoos for some time.
'We are confident that good new homes for our animals will be found,' the staff posted. 'In the unlikely event that we cannot find housing that suits their needs, we may need to make the difficult decision to euthanize,' although they believe that this is an unlikely scenario.
They have also considered releasing some of the animals into the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Reintroduction Specialist Group has guidelines, including appropriate veterinary checks, which make it possible for some of the creatures to release a few local species back into the wild.
This is not possible for all species, especially those that were born or hatched within their sites but cannot naturally survive in the local natural habitat. These include the Inca tern from Peru and Chile and African penguins. After twenty years of operation, the owners 'had to look at its cost base and make efficiencies,' concluding that they can no longer afford the extensive care for all their animals.
Similarly, the Neumünster Zoo in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany closed its doors on March 15 and had relied on existing entry fees and donations to continue feeding their 700 animals. Receiving no aid from the government, they predicted that they had enough provisions only until May.
Verena Kaspari, the zoo director, said 'If - and this is really the worst, worst case - if I run out of money to buy food, or if it should happen that my food supplier can no longer deliver due to new restrictions, I would slaughter animals to feed the other animals.' Their carnivorous animals will have to feed on meat, and the first to go will probably be the goats and deer.
Tropiquaria Zoo in Somerset, England, has had the same considerations as Living Coasts. The staff had been scouring shops for food but had failed because of panic buying during the early days of the pandemic in March.
Chris Moiser, who runs the zoo, said that he has considered the 'euthanasia of some if not all' of the animals. They had been able to buy some fruits, vegetables, and other supplies, yet supermarket restrictions of limited purchasing are another hindrance.
Moiser urged the public to continue visiting zoos if they are able, for the sake of the animals. 'They are mainly outside, with large, open areas, which means that you can keep your distance from other visitors whilst breathing in fresh air,' meaning that wildlife areas are generally safe.