Melbourne, Australia – Every year, millions of visitors head to zoos across Australia to look at the animals stuck in their enclosures, but with many people now in lockdown themselves, animals are missing their human admirers, and zoos and wildlife parks are losing crucial income.
Strict government measures to control the coronavirus pandemic have forced shops, restaurants and entertainment venues across Australia to close, so zookeepers have been going the extra mile for the animals in the absence of visitors.
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Sticking to daily routines is important for the animals, zoo owners say, so exhibitions and shows have been continuing on schedule in many zoos despite empty seats.
“The animals love and miss our zoo visitors,” said Terri Irwin, owner of Australia Zoo on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
“They are used to large groups of people admiring them and telling them that they are beautiful and amazing.”
Accustomed to hugs from guests, Irwin said some of the koalas have been following staff around for extra cuddles, while other animals have been taken for walks or allowed to wander around the zoo gardens.
“It’s more important now than ever, that every animal receives extra attention,” said Irwin, who began managing Australia Zoo alongside her late husband Steve Irwin – known as ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ in 1992.
The koala ‘cuddle train’ is one of the most popular livestreams introduced at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park since Australia shut down because of the coronavirus [Supplied/Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary]
“We make sure our birds get to fly, our rhinos get lots of back scratches while they’re in t