Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Ukraine, the animals at businessman Mykhailo Pinchuk’s private zoo have gotten leaner diets.
Beef has been partially replaced by other meats and broccoli switched for cheaper cabbage.
Monkeys, lions and tigers have been surprised by the changes, and one of the leopards has visibly lost weight, zookeepers say.
“We are ashamed, and they are sad,” Pinchuk, head of Ukraine’s largest private zoo, said. A steep revenue decline caused by the national shutdown to control the novel coronavirus has hit them hard.
The zoo is located on the outskirts of the village of Demydiv, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Kiev. They have around 450 animals, including leopards, bears and giraffes.
Closed for nearly two months, the zoo is no longer earning revenue from visitors and has recently issued an urgent appeal to the public for donations. They have already raised roughly 7,500 dollars (6,900 euros) but the zoo needs more to survive.
Pinchuk, who also has a real estate business, said he had sought to cut costs as much as possible, laying off non-essential personnel and simplifying the animals’ specialized diets.
Feeding them generally costs around 500,000 Ukrainian hryvnias ($18,700) per month. Those costs have been cut by about 10 percent but further cuts could harm the animals, Pinchuk said.
New foods have affected their mood. “They are like people, they like variety,” said Maksym Kovalev, who has worked in the zoo for nearly two years. “It’s like switching to porridge after eating restaurant food.”
Monkeys, whose diets are expensive, have also been significantly affected, he said. Joseph the orangutan loves persimmons and tangerines and his mood can turn sour if he does not get his preferred fruit, Pinchuk said. “We have to give him that, it’s his favorite stuff.”
Every year several hundred thousand people visit the zoo, which spans 18 hectares (44 acres) and features a restaurant built in the form of a castle. It is particularly busy in spring, with the parking lot full of cars and playgrounds packed with children.
Pinchuk hopes to be allowed to re-open soon as an open-air park. Strict restrictions will be introduced to keep the animals safe.
Pinchuk said he planned to put up posters asking guests not to give monkeys any food. But keeping them indoors was also not an option, he said.
“There is no choice. We cannot close the zoo and watch them waste away from another disease, a lack of sunlight, or a bad mood.”
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