Pygmy goats at locked down London Zoo are being given extra attention from keepers after they realised the animals were missing being petted by visitors.
The goats are used to interacting with guests in the children’s section of the zoo, and have been waiting at the gate every morning anticipating the arrival of a stream of people.
But because the zoo is currently closed to visitors during the coronavirus pandemic, no guests are arriving and their ears were being left unscratched.
Senior keeper Tara Humphrey told the PA news agency: “We’ve all been taking it in turns to regularly visit the zoo’s pygmy goats at our children’s zoo, Animal Adventure, to give them some extra attention.
“They’ve been waiting patiently at the gate every day for their usual ear scratches from visitors so we’re doing our bit to make it up to them.”
While the zoo is closed to visitors, 50 keepers – around half the total keeper staff – are on site every day to ensure all the animals are well looked after.
And not all the animals have been affected by the lack of visitors.
Ms Humphrey said: “Some of our residents don’t seem to have noticed.
“The Asiatic lions, for example, are lazing in the spring sunshine and seem more focused on rolling around in the scent and spice trails keepers have been laying down.”
Meanwhile, some of the zoo’s animals are even getting out and about.
Ms Humphrey said: “As always, zookeepers have been dedicating their time to caring for the animals – feeding, mucking out, carrying out daily training, thinking up fun and creative new activities to keep the animals stimulated and where safely possible, taking animals like the llamas and Bactrian camels on walks around the zoo.”
Some keepers are staying in the zoo’s on-site lodges – which are usually available for guests to hire so they can sleep close to the lion enclosure – to keep travel to a minimum.
And while the animals’ routines are remaining as unchanged as possible, there is one element that is unavoidably missing.
“We definitely miss our visitors,” Ms Humphrey said. “A big part of our job is educating people about wildlife and the struggles animals are facing in the wild, and we love seeing people’s reactions when they see their favourite animals right in front of them.
“People regularly tear up when they see the sloths in Rainforest Life.
“But we’re safely making the best of this terrible situation and are focusing on this uninterrupted time with our animals – it’s them we’re here for, and it’s lovely to be able to spend more quality time with them.”
One of the biggest effects on the zoo has been the financial hit coming from the lack of visitors.
“We rely on donations and ticket sales to fund the care of our animals and our global conservation work,” Ms Humphrey said.
The zoo is appealing for members of the public to donate via their website.