News & Opinion | May 19, 2020 11:46 am

Zoos May Have to Start Euthanizing Animals If Coronavirus Lockdowns Continue

Things are looking pretty bleak

The zoo has seen better days.
velvetmelaninphotography/Getty Images

Remember what feels like 43 years ago (but was actually less than two months ago) when two pandas had sex at a zoo in Hong Kong and it was the best news anyone had heard in weeks? Well, unfortunately it turns out life in the zoo during a pandemic isn’t all fun and fornication. In fact, things are starting to get pretty dark.

Like most businesses, zoos have been hit hard by the pandemic, and owners are struggling to keep their zoos and the animals they house alive as lockdowns bring visitors and revenue to a halt.

“The amount of losses through the whole zoological community is staggering,” Steven Monfort, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, told the New Yorker. “Most of us are trying to figure out how to get to the spring of 2021 and hope that there’s a vaccine or something so that visitation by then will be more normal.”

While many businesses are being forced to make difficult decisions amid the widespread financial strife, zookeepers have an additional concern at hand: their living, breathing products. As lockdowns continue, many zookeepers are starting to prepare for the worst, and some worst-case scenarios are looking grim.

“If — and this is really the worst, worst case of all — if I no longer have any money to buy feed, or if it should happen that my feed supplier is no longer able to supply due to new restrictions, then I would slaughter animals to feed other animals,” a zoo owner in northern Germany told the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur last month, according to CNN. The zoo has reportedly drafted a list of which animals would be the first to go.

According to the New Yorker report, other zoos have already begun pursuing less drastic measures, including a Canadian zoo that sent its pandas back to China after being unable to procure enough bamboo to feed them.

To summarize, coronavirus has transformed the zoo, once a kid-friendly destination for family day trips and school field trips, into a bleak hellscape. But hey, at least those pandas got to have sex one last time before the end.

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