difficulties and misunderstandings while waiting for the reopening

While open-air parks and gardens have been open since the closure last year, zoos have been closed for nearly 6 months, a situation unprecedented.

Closed since October 29, 2020, while subject to very high fixed and uncompressible costs, zoos survive thanks to state aid. The reopening is still waiting, while the return of sunny days only increases the shortage.

Rodolphe Delord, President of the French Association of Zoos (AFdPZ) and of the ZooParc de Beauval in Loir-et-Cher, explains that, of course, while the park is closed, “ our animals continue to eat, animal keepers and veterinarians work, and important maintenance services are maintained While the park normally welcomes 1.6 million visitors a year, it had 1.2 million entrances in 2020 and none so far in 2021. Our priority is to maintain the same level of animal care and ensure health security in order to reopen as soon as possible. “. Financial equilibrium is therefore impossible to maintain in advance without state aid.

At the Bioparc of Doué-la-Fontaine in Anjou, which lost 20% of visitors throughout the season last year, François Gay makes a similar observation: “ whether we are closed or open to the public, the activity of the animal husbandry and the technical team is the same “. Apart from the catering teams and seasonal workers waiting to be hired this summer, the zoo staff are all in the post.” We had less than 5% partial unemployment during the first containment, but we have no income, so we live with cash from government-guaranteed loans (PGE) and income from last year However, François Gay does not intend to reduce the cost of support for conservation projects and local animal welfare associations around the world, which should represent 4% of the zoo’s turnover by 2021.

Germany and Belgium have approved the opening of zoos. Bioparc – Sebastien Gaudard

La Boissière-du-Doré Zoo near Nantes, for its part, had to launch a Leetchi kitten to deal with its financial difficulties during the closure in March 2020. Its president Sébastien Laurent says: “ when we closed on March 17 we were at the worst of the worst, March is a difficult month every year but now we had just made the biggest investment in the park’s history, to expand the lion park and build new cabins and we had closed two weekends in February due to floods “. A successful operation as it raised € 50,000 through 715 donors, including” more than half had left a message, we received a lot of children’s drawings, a little girl gave her piggy bank twice … “.

Misconceptions about reopening

In addition to state aid, through solidarity funds and PGEs, without which these private zoos would not have been able to survive, everyone feels supported by a public awaiting reopening: “ the public misses us, we miss him too “, Sighs François Gay. “ We get bombarded with emails and people asking why we stay closed Says Sébastien Laurent. A situation that seems as incomprehensible to the two presidents as to the visitors. When he heard about the maintenance of the closure of the third ongoing detention, the president of Boissière zoo testified: “ personally I took it very badly, we are outdoor establishments, we have put protocols in place, validated by the prefectures, last year we welcomed 120,000 visitors from May 17 to October 29, no problems, people respected very well “, he points out that” in Germany and Belgium zoos are open, we know there are no risks, but here the government does not want to send positive signs, so we are side damage At Doué-la-Fontaine Bioparc, frustration is also felt: “ we struggled to communicate about the opening, we had organized all the protocols to receive the public, but everything stopped a few hours from the green light to the reopening in March “. He points it out, though 95% of the parks are only in the open, we can close the vivarium and suspend the animations “.” I understood the government’s decisions over the last year, but today I am very tired of the bias that I share much less. Adds François Gay.

Expectations for improvement

However, the chairman of ZooParc de Beauval wants to be optimistic: “ from the moment we can reopen, our establishments will be visited, for the French stay in France, so we wait “. In fact, even in Doué-la-Fontaine, the consequences of the first incarceration had been encouraging:” last summer the visitors were back “, With a presence of” 10 to 15% higher to previous years in the same period.

During this time, the animals that were robbed of their publicity did not change much their habits. “ except for the orangutans who like visitors, so they ask that we spend more time with them “, and “ birds that can expand their nesting place in large aviaries . Bioparc is doing well, “ we are not in wartime, we did not eat them “Ironically, its president, with the certainty that” life will resume “.

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