Verena Kaspari said none of the help the zoo has asked for has arrived, but the nation’s zoological association doesn’t think her alternative plan is the right way to go. Picture: Carsten Rehder/dpa
Verena Kaspari said none of the help the zoo has asked for has arrived, but the nation’s zoological association doesn’t think her alternative plan is the right way to go. Picture: Carsten Rehder/dpa

Zoo could feed animals to each other

The coronavirus pandemic is throwing up a lot of difficult decisions around the world, from social isolating work-from-homers trying to pick which takeaway to get delivered next to health workers in overburdened hospitals being forced to choose whose lives they try to save.

In Germany, one zookeeper is facing the choice of which animals to sacrifice to save others, if that's what it comes to.

"If - and this is really the worst, worst case - if I run out of money to buy feed or if it should happen that my feed supplier can no longer deliver due to new restrictions, I would slaughter animals for others," Neumünster Zoo director Verena Kaspari told German newswire Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

The zoo has around 700 animals, and now: a plan for which ones would be killed in which order to save the others.

Last on the list is the polar bear Vitus, believed to be the biggest in Germany.

The zoo was also formerly home to a polar bear named Lars, father of famed Berlin Zoo polar bear Knut and subject of a custody dispute between the two zoos before the younger bear's untimely death by drowning in 2011.

Polar bear Vitus swims in his tank. Since the closure of the zoo in mid-March due to coronavirus, Neumünster Zoo has been dependent on donations to survive due to a lack of visitors. Picture: Carsten Rehder/dpa
Polar bear Vitus swims in his tank. Since the closure of the zoo in mid-March due to coronavirus, Neumünster Zoo has been dependent on donations to survive due to a lack of visitors. Picture: Carsten Rehder/dpa


The 3.6-metre tall Vitus is seemingly to be preserved at all costs, as zoos face mounting challenges of keeping all their animals fed, while they are also not producing any income from crowds coming in to see the exotic creatures in captivity.

Ms Kaspari said the zoo is yet to receive any of the help it has asked for since the government ordered it shut down on March 15.

"We are an association and do not receive any urban funds, and everything we have applied for so far has not yet arrived," Ms Kaspari told DPA.

It's understood endangered animals are not at risk of being used as feed, but more common creatures like deer and goats could be sacrificed in order to prevent them and the rest of the animals from succumbing to a lengthy death by starvation.

But even having the plan has raised the ire of Germany's zoological association.

"The assumed killing of animals due to financial losses during the corona crisis as suggested by one German zoo does not represent our associations' opinion!" The Association of Zoological Gardens tweeted on Wednesday.

Verena Kaspari said none of the help the zoo has asked for has arrived, but the nation’s zoological association doesn’t think her alternative plan is the right way to go. Picture: Carsten Rehder/dpa
Verena Kaspari said none of the help the zoo has asked for has arrived, but the nation’s zoological association doesn’t think her alternative plan is the right way to go. Picture: Carsten Rehder/dpa

 

"We work on financial solutions to support our zoos until they're allowed to open their gates again," the organisation added, which could be as soon as Monday.

"The federal government wants to propose to the federal states that zoos, among others, may reopen from April 20 - of course subject to hygiene requirements for people and animals, for controlling access and to avoid queues," the association said in a follow up tweet.

Some small businesses will be allowed to reopen in Germany on Monday but it's not yet clear if zoos are among them. The nation's schools are due to remain closed until May 4.

In Australia, zoos like Sydney's Taronga have also closed their doors, but have installed cameras providing 24/7 livestreams of animal enclosures.


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