Coronavirus: US zoos struggling as they run out of food and supplies

‘It’s something you think about and you plan for but you never think it’s actually going to happen’

James Crump@thejamescrump
Wednesday 01 April 2020 22:16
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Zoos and Aquariums are struggling all over the country
Zoos and Aquariums are struggling all over the country

Zoos across America are appealing for help, as they run out of food and supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Washington Post.

With stay at home orders in place all over America, zoos and aquariums are finding themselves empty and in need of supplies.

Nadine Lamberski, chief veterinary officer at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park told the Post they are concerned about food, as some of their animals have a particular diet they need to stick to.

Ms Lamberski said Platypuses “have a preferential diet of eating yabbies, or crayfish”. She added: “The fact that they prefer them to be alive is the challenge.”

It is very difficult for them to get the food they need at the moment, so the zoo are trialling frozen food in the hopes it will work during the outbreak.

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“We are actually doing some feeding trials with them now to see if they will accept frozen, thawed crayfish,” said Ms Lamberski. “But it’s too soon to comment on those results.”

Supplies are also running low and at the Florida Aquarium, they are stockpiling instant ocean, an artificial seawater product that helps keep the water in good condition.

The aquarium normally refreshes its water with some shipped from the Gulf of Mexico, but during the outbreak that delivery is impossible.

Florida Aquarium CEO Roger Germann told the Post that instant ocean is a necessity right now, as it “can sit on a shelf for a very long time”.

With very little known about the virus, hygiene has also become a concern among zoo staff.

Ginger Sturgeon of the Pittsburgh zoo said: “I have no idea if the coronavirus could go from a human to anteater, but we’re using an abundance of caution.”

Ms Lamberski added: “We always wear face masks when we’re doing an exam of a great ape, but in this situation, we’re asking our wildlife care specialists to wear masks any time they’re even in an area with the primates.”

Zoos appear to be reeling from the impact of the pandemic. Doug Warmolts, vice president of animal care at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said “It’s surreal that we’re in this situation.”

“It’s something you think about and you plan for, but you never think it’s actually going to happen.”

Zoos and aquariums all around the world are using the lockdown as a time to livestream parts of their exhibits.

Cameron Kerr, the chief executive of Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald that livestreams allow them to continue their service to the public.

“One of the key roles of a modern zoo like ours is to inspire the public to have a love for wildlife. Now that people can’t come to us any more, we want to go into their homes.”

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, upwards of 206,207 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 4,542.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a two-week ban on gatherings of more than 50 people as part of the battle to contain the spread of the contagion.

Additional reporting by The Washington Post.

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