Zoos may not survive the coronavirus pandemic, owner warns

The owner of one of Britain’s smallest zoos is appealing for help – warning that the animals are at risk of euthanasia without the public’s support.

Chris Moiser, who runs the Tropiquaria Zoo in Watchet, Somerset, said that a combination of panic-buying and the limitations placed on purchasers by supermarkets was making it difficult to get food for the animals.

He urged members of the public to continue to visit their local zoos if they are not required to be in self-isolation at home and consider making a donation of food.

The Tropiquaria Zoo has a number of lemurs in its collection (Tropiquaria Zoo/PA).
The Tropiquaria Zoo has a number of lemurs in its collection (Tropiquaria Zoo/PA).

“If many of us have to close we will, without financial support, have to consider euthanasia of some, if not all, of our stock as food resources become simply unaffordable,” he said.

“This is something that we will hate doing, and that many of us will never get over. This is why we are appealing.”

He said that feeding the animals was becoming more difficult because of panic-buying.

“Our staff are literally scouring the shops for food. Some of the local supermarkets and shops have been good, some not so good even though they want to be,” he said.

“One has a computerised till system which will not let us buy more than three of any food item.

“This is fine, but we are not panic-buying, we are trying to buy the normal quantity of food for our animals that we buy from that store every week, our loyalty card might even be able to confirm that.

“A couple of hours shopping a week has become many times longer, exposing the staff to a greater infection potential as they move from shop to shop, buying what they can here and there.

“Animals are having to discover new foods. Often this seems to be because of panic-buying, not because of reduced quantities of food being delivered to the shops. The shop keepers tell us so.”

Mr Moiser said the zoo’s insurance policy did not cover a pandemic and they needed support to keep going.

“At the practical level, zoos remain a low-risk trip out, they are mainly outside, with large, open areas, which means that you can keep your distance from other visitors whilst breathing in fresh air, and maintaining greater lung function than when you sit at home and watch the next ‘boxset’ on television,” he said.

Mr Moiser warned that if various species of animals in captivity, such as the ring-tailed lemur, were euthanised it would have a knock-on impact upon the populations in the wild.

“For us to lose them because of a human-related disease that we may well have brought under control in a year would be horrendous, and probably a greater sin than letting species be hunted to extinction in past centuries,” he said.