ATHENS, Greece — It’s feeding time at Greece’s solely zoo, and a capuchin monkey grabs as many mandarins as it may possibly — even tucking one into his lengthy, supple tail. It is perhaps sensible to fill up.
After being closed for nearly three months resulting from COVID-19, the zoo on the fringes of Athens could possibly be on the highway to extinction: With no paying guests or — not like different European zoos — sufficient authorities support to cowl its very explicit wants, the Attica Zoological Park faces big payments to maintain 2,000 animals well-fed and wholesome.
“As issues are … we nonetheless can go on for not less than one month,” zoo founder and CEO Jean Jacques Lesueur mentioned. “After that, we don’t know.”
Not like some companies compelled to briefly shut resulting from virus-control restrictions, the zoo continues to have sizeable working bills. Between meals, salaries, utilities, medical care and different bills, the price of caring for the animals at present exceeds 200,000 euros ($243,000) monthly.
“That’s the distinction between us and different firms: After they shut they shut. We shut, however we don’t shut,” Lesueur informed The Related Press.
Based in 2000 and positioned within the city of Spata, the zoo occupies 20 hectares (50 acres) and is dwelling to 290 species, from elephants to prairie canines. It’s concerned in training, conservation and breeding, and belongs to the European Affiliation of Zoos and Aquaria, which has about 400 members.
Having to shut once more on Nov. 7 after Greece’s two-month spring lockdown got here at a foul time for Attica Zoological Park. The zoo usually operates year-round however does plenty of its enterprise throughout cooler climate “as a result of in Greece folks go to the seashores, to the islands, they don’t go to zoos” in the summertime, the French-born Lesueur mentioned.
Guests account for greater than 99% of its income, from tickets, meals and drinks and present store gross sales. So each month’s income counts, and the lack of December, often busy as a result of Christmas holidays, was notably heavy.
Up to now, suppliers have proven understanding and are accepting credit score. Two-thirds of the zoo’s employees is on state-supported furlough, and an anticipated installment of state support will care for this month’s pay for the remaining, the CEO mentioned.
The zoo additionally has offered 5,000 advance tickets at diminished costs for when the lockdown ends, and Lesueur says that helped pay December’s salaries.
Lockdown additionally impacts the zoo’s residents, accustomed as they’re to crowds of people. For almost three months, they’ve solely been seeing their keepers. So the tables have been turned when an AP journalist visited final week: A number of curious animals and birds got here shut for an excellent look.
“Animals miss guests, as a result of it’s a part of their life,” Lesueur mentioned. “All of the animals you see (right here) are born in different zoos. So they’re used to folks.”
Greece has registered about 150,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections thus far and a few 5,800 deaths within the pandemic. After peaking above 3,300 in November, the variety of new day by day instances is holding within the triple digits.
Nonetheless, the better Athens area stays the nation’s worst-hit space and authorities mentioned Friday they may reimpose more durable lockdown restrictions there after a January decline in an infection charges was reversed this week.
Total, Lesueur says he’s optimistic that the zoo will get clearance to reopen in coming weeks.
“Besides if the COVID (state of affairs) will get worse. That’s one other story,” he mentioned. “Now if we’re closed for one more two months or three months, I actually don’t know what’s going to occur.”
Observe AP protection of the coronavirus pandemic at:
Nicholas Paphitis, The Related Press