How is life in a zoo in times of confinement? The Palmyre zoo in Charente-Maritime closed on March 17, but life did not stop there.
On the vet’s table, a small bat is waiting to be examined. Before that, you have to fall asleep. « We put him to sleep with gas, explains Thierry Petit. The bats are very receptive to this gas and it will be very fast. « The veterinarian of the Palmyre zoo (Charente-Maritime) is concerned about the stunted growth of this Rodrigue’s dogfish. After the medical examination, he took the opportunity to carry out some tests. « We will take blood, we will see if they have been in contact with certain viruses. This is the way we work, we do what we have to do, and when we have the animals on hand, we profit. «
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1,600 animals live on the 18 hectares of the park. Despite the confinement linked to the coronavirus, they continue their life, under the watchful eye of zoo employees. In the monkey enclosure, the chimpanzees await the arrival of the trainer and his pail of pellets. Monkeys, whose genetic makeup is very similar to that of humans, are susceptible to viruses. Elliott, their healer, redoubles his vigilance during this period. « We change before entering the building », explains the trainer. We have footbaths, we use gloves almost permanently in the building, and as soon as we are near the monkeys, we already wear a mask. Of course, we are even more careful when we are close to the monkeys. «
Apart from the presence of the trainers, the zoo’s paths are empty, far from the hustle and bustle that surrounds the passage of thousands of daily visitors in normal times. There is an unusual calm that intrigues some species, notes Jérôme Darriet, the animal manager: « The animals get used to the visitors. For example, on the African plain, you have zebras, wildebeests, impalas … it is enough that I pass with my bicycle and there, I see them approaching. »
Inevitably, with confinement, the sea lions’ aquatic spectacle is suspended, which does not prevent mammals from having fun in their pond. Their trainer Dimiter Ivanov continues to train them every day. « If we don’t do this every day, after a while, there will be gestures that may be forgotten », he says.
Each week, 250 kilos of meat and more than three tonnes of carrots, apples, salads, oranges and bananas are delivered to the zoo. For the park, deprived of entrance ticket receipts, the situation is delicate. Its director, Pierre Caillé, worries about the treasury: « What is the horizon for reopening? Because really, the important period for the parks is from April to August. The rest of the year, it must be understood that the volume of charges is greater than revenues. If zero visitors are received from March to August, more than 80% of turnover is lost. «
Animal transfers also had to be stopped. Palmyra antelopes were to leave for a zoo in Spain and the Palmyra park was soon to welcome gibbons from Sweden. As long as the confinement continues, all these exchanges are suspended.