Antwerp Zoo is closed for the near future, as part of the measures imposed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
But the animals don’t know that, and some of them appear to be missing the zoo’s visitors, according to spokesperson Ilse Segers.
The only contact the animals have now is with each other and with their keepers. According to them, not only are the people missing, but the sounds of the zoo are different.
Of course, the zoo is situated next to the city’s main railway station, in a busy part of town. And thanks to lockdown measures, the soundscape of Antwerp like every other busy city has changed.
But zoo personnel are convinced that some animals at least are beginning to miss the public they have grown used to.
“The laughing doves have made their nest on the footpath, where people usually walk by,” Segers told VRT Radio. “They sit there quite quietly. The buffalo and also showing changed reactions. Our keepers are convinced: they look different.”
The laughing dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), known in Dutch as the Senegal turtle dove, is a small, long-tailed pigeon native to Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.
The zoo’s chimpanzees are showing the biggest change in behaviour, she said.
“On normal days you see them being drawn towards humans. Now they turn more towards their own sort. There’s much more interaction within the group of apes. Primates recognise humans, and understand when visitors look them in the eye. Now the gorillas act surprised if they see a human, a keeper, going by. You can see how they react differently.”
The zoo now hopes the coronavirus measures can be withdrawn as early as possible.
“It’s so strange,” Segers said. “The zoo looks wonderful right now. It’s springtime, the magnolia is blooming. And our hearts are bleeding.”
The zoo remains closed until further notice, and is not accepting reservations for organised visits even later in the year.