London Zoo animals are ‘lonely’ during lockdown because they miss seeing visitors, keepers say

The animals at London zoo are used to putting on a show for thousands of visitors for every day. But as for many people during lockdown, in the past few weeks the creatures have noticed that human attention is scant.

Keepers have complained that the animals at the zoo are ‘lonely’ and have thus changed their behaviour, as they miss interacting with visitors.

Zookeepers have remained on site to make sure the animals are well looked after, and keep their routine as close to normal as possible.

While some of the creatures, such as the Asiatic lions and Sumatran tiger haven’t noticed a difference and do not care how many humans tramp past their exhibit, the gibbons, pygmy goats, Humboldt penguins and Western lowland gorillas have "definitely noticed a difference", keepers explained. 

Jimmy the gibbon is a "born people-watcher", zookeeper Daniel Simmonds said.

He told the BBC: "He spends his day looking at people and interacting. Nobody looking for Jimmy is not Jimmy’s world, he likes seeing different people, different shoes, different clothes.

"It’s kind of sad to see him missing what he loves the most. We can see them showing a huge amount of interest if they see any human."

ZSL Director General, Dominic Jermey warned that the pressure on the zoo from the second lockdown is putting its future at risk, as well as upsetting the animals.

He said: “London Zoo – and our sister site, Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire – have had to close their doors for the second time in 2020, putting us under immense strain following the toughest year in our 200-year history. Closing our doors cuts off our main source of income but we have immoveable outlays; it costs around £1m a month just to care for and feed the 20,000 animals at our two Zoos, but our essential zookeepers and vets cannot be furloughed, nor do we qualify to access the Zoo Fund.

“The animals continue to receive world-class care, and our zookeepers are ensuring their routines are not disrupted – while Jimmy the gibbon is definitely missing showing off for our visitors, his keepers are making sure he’s getting lots of extra attention. We’re asking everyone to consider supporting us – be that a donation, buying a gift ticket for a future visit or becoming a member, there are lots of ways to help."

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