Animals In Zoos Are ‘Lonely’ Without Visitors, Keepers Say

by : Cameron Frew on : 02 May 2020 15:18
Animals In Zoos Are 'Lonely' Without Visitors, Keepers SayPA Images

We’ve all seen the videos of animals roaming their closed zoos. However, it turns out they’re getting a bit lonely without our beaming faces everyday. 

Zoos all across the world have shut due to the outbreak, with the wildlife residents mostly left to their own devices for the time being. In some facilities, penguins and flamingos have been exploring other areas of their home they’ve never seen.


However, without the public coming to see them, animals are ‘wondering what’s happened to everyone’, with primates reportedly making an effort to actually look for humans.

Orangutan from El Paso ZooPA Images

Leo Oosterweghel, director of Dublin Zoo – which pulls in around 1.2 million visitors every year – said the animals look at him ‘with more surprise now’. ‘They come up and have a good look because they’re wondering what’s happened to everyone else. They are used to visitors,’ he told The Irish Times.

According to Paul Rose, lecturer in animal behaviour at the University of Exeter, the zoos’ residents – such as primates and parrots – rely on our visits and engagement for ‘enrichment’. ‘It is beneficial to the animal’s well-being and quality of life. If this stimulation is not there, then the animals are lacking the enrichment,’ he told BBC News.


That’s why the rhinos and giraffes at New Zealand’s Orana Wildlife Park have still been turning up for their public appearances, despite nobody coming to see them. Phoenix Zoo is experiencing a similar situation, with keepers spending even more time than usual with its elephants, orangutans and other animals.

Linda Hardwick, communications director for Phoenix Zoo, explained:


We have noticed that some of our more ‘social’ animals are not a fan of the stay at home and social distancing orders. Primates especially have noticed our guests are gone and go looking for them.

Our Tropical Flights Aviary is home to a very special, and social bird; Dinah the Bali myna, who is missing the attention of guests. Bird keepers are visiting her frequently to curb her loneliness.

It’s become so serious at Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium that staff are asking the public to video call with its eels to remind them humans exist. On Twitter, the facility wrote: ‘They don’t see humans, except keepers, and they have started forgetting about humans… here is an urgent request. Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?’

Sumida Aquarium EelsSumida Aquarium/Twitter

Fortunately, with the recurring presence of keepers and workers across the world’s zoos, Rose assured that ‘people are not suddenly going to be unfamiliar’ to the animals.


For more information on visiting the eels, you can visit the aquarium’s website here.

It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Animals, Coronavirus, COVID-19


The Irish Times and 2 others
  1. The Irish Times

    The animals are baffled at Dublin Zoo – what happened the humans?

  2. BBC

    Coronavirus: Animals in zoos 'lonely' without visitors

  3. Sumida Aquarium

    Please remember about humans! "Urgent event! Chin eel show festival!"