Emptied of its visitors because of the Covid, Colombian zoos are experiencing a baby boom: “This increase is due to the decrease in contact with humans”
“Faced with the loneliness due to the absence of visitors (…) the increase in reproductions brings us great joy,” Nestor Varela, scientific director of Bioparc Ukumari, 16 km from Pereira, told AFP. in the west of the country, confined for nearly five months.
Two meerkats, two ostriches, two buffaloes and a white-tailed deer have been born in this park since the virus was first detected in Colombia on March 6.
Although it is difficult to demonstrate that this “baby boom” is directly due to the absence of visitors, “it is true that there are more projections than in previous years”, according to this expert.
In the second most bio-diverse country in the world, after Brazil, Ukumari Park is home to hundreds of animals, which live in an environment adapted to their natural habitat on 44 hectares of dry tropical forest.
This zoo employs 90 people. But, without revenue, the situation is difficult.
“It is very hard. We are affected especially economically because we live from the entries of visitors”, laments the director, Sandra Correa.
Two tiny meerkat babies play with their mother. This is the first time that this species has reproduced in the center. Ms. Correa attributes it to the work of the scientific team, which found that “one of the dominant females (…) did not let the others mate”.
The 17 specimens – four females and 13 males – were then separated into two groups and the miracle took place.
Made famous thanks to the character of Timon in the film “The Lion King”, meerkats are small African mammals, about 35 cm high, which feed mainly on insects.
“They pass for gossips because they stand up while the leader spots possible dangers,” explains the director.
Transferred from Prague Zoo in 2013, these meerkats live in Colombia in an arid space, similar to the African savannah, with average temperatures of 28 degrees.
During the confinement, established throughout Colombia on March 25, Mr. Varela noticed that the residents of the zoo were “quieter”: “the park being closed, the animals have no interaction with visitors and are therefore not subject at no stress “.
And if the zoo suffers from financial difficulties, it paradoxically benefits from the pandemic with this “greater reproductive activity due to the decrease in contact with visitors”, underlines the scientist.
Thus, ostriches rarely incubate their eggs in captivity and embryos usually develop in incubators.
But thanks to the confinement, Ukumari was the scene of another miracle.
The birds laid eggs in a busy area normally. Without the disturbing presence of humans, this time they “decided to hatch their eggs there. We let them do it and, being calmer, they carried out the incubation in a natural way”, rejoices Mr. Varela.
The ostrich, the largest and heaviest bird on the planet, also lives in Africa. It can reach two meters high and does not fly, but runs up to 70 km / hour.
Mr. Varela recalls how difficult it is to breed wild animals in captivity and is all the more happy about these exceptional births.
This “baby boom” is in line with its objective of “maintaining the population and the genetic wealth” of the world’s fauna over the long term.