Without humans around, Sri Lanka’s zoo animals enjoy a pandemic baby boom.


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — To forestall the worst of Covid devastation, Sri Lanka imposed lockdowns and stopped flights from overseas for practically a 12 months, battering the economic system and drying up a very important tourism business.

For animals within the island nation’s zoos, nevertheless, it’s been a jolly time.

Amid the absence of tourists, animal births within the zoos rose 25 p.c over the previous 12 months, based on Ishini Wickremesinghe, the director normal of Sri Lanka’s Department of National Zoological Gardens. Particularly putting, she mentioned, is that a number of animals that don’t have a historical past of breeding in native zoos have given beginning.

“Animals are actually having a less-stress and relaxed time with no people around,” she mentioned.

Sri Lanka closed its zoos in March 2020, briefly reopening to guests earlier this 12 months earlier than closing once more as coronavirus infections rose. Among the animals which have bred for the primary time are a black swan, a white peacock and a nilgai, the biggest antelope in Asia. Others which have produced offspring embody an Arabian oryx, a black duck, a scimitar-horned oryx and a zebra.

“We also have three new lion cubs,” Ms. Wickremesinghe mentioned. “After years, the animals really got a good break.”

The cubs are about six months previous now. With no guests round, grownup lions are free to roam round their enclosures and consort with potential mates.

At Sri Lanka’s wildlife parks, officers couldn’t affirm whether or not breeding was on the rise, however animals are “definitely stress-free,” mentioned Manoj Vidyaratne, the warden of Yala National Park on the island’s southeastern coast. “Usually, we see about 400 vehicles in the park daily,” he mentioned, “but this time there is no one.”

Creatures in captivity elsewhere, too, have taken benefit of the pandemic to procreate. Last April, two giant pandas successfully mated on the Hong Kong zoo, which was closed to guests because of the coronavirus.

Sri Lanka, an early success story in containing the unfold of the virus, has skilled a latest surge and is recording practically 3,000 new every day infections, according to a New York Times database. The pandemic has worsened the financial woes of a nation that was already struggling to get well from terrorist attacks in 2019.

Sri Lanka’s zoos, which home about 4,000 species, are among the many tourism-dependent nation’s main sights, drawing greater than three million guests a 12 months earlier than the pandemic.

Despite the impression on income, Ms. Wickremesinghe mentioned she hoped to maintain the zoos closed till circumstances drop, fearing that primates might catch Covid-19 from an contaminated customer. “We don’t know what to do if that happens,” she mentioned.



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