While public parks in the Czech Republic have remained open during the coronavirus crisis, zoos have been closed. Now, directors of 11 zoos are demand the zoo’s outdoor areas be allowed to open sooner than May 25, the date currently set by the government.
In Prague, the outdoor areas of city’s Botanical Garden have already reopened, but people have to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing. Zoo directors state that the outdoor areas of zoos can now also be safely opened.
The zoo directors have written an open letter to the government asking for an earlier opening, as zoos depend largely on admission fees to operate. The spring is a crucial season for income. The directors say the loss of income can have a negative long-term effect on the work they do to protect endangered species.
In the government’s five-stage plan for reopening the country’s facilities, zoos would not open until the fourth or next-to-last stage. Zoos closed along with most other places where people congregate in mid March.
The participating zoos are asking the government to change the regulations and to let the zoo directors to decide on the opening dates, as long as they comply with security measures.
“Unlike many other cultural and educational organizations, the financial self-sufficiency of zoos is 50%, and often even 80%. In total, the losses in sales in Czech zoos for only March and April are around 100 million CZK. Operating costs can only be reduced minimally. Employees still have to take care of the animals to maintain the breeding of critically endangered species,. There are at the threshold of extinction and their survival often depends on breeding in human care,” the zoo directors stated.
Moreover, most zoos are contributory organizations to the local cities or regions. This excludes them from the possibility of drawing financial assistance to cover financial losses for lost income and wages of employees by the state.
The directors maintain that zoos, from an epidemiological standpoint, do not really differ from the publicly accessible parks where people have continually been allowed to go. They argue that zoos can regulate the number of visitors and make sure that clusters do not form at exhibition areas or playgrounds.
The zoos’ indoor pavilions would temporarily remain closed. People could get refreshments from vending machines or dispensing windows.
“We do not underestimate the danger of a current coronavirus pandemic. We are used to working with epidemic plans. People with a biological education are in charge of most zoological gardens. But we are aware that without government financial assistance, the state-imposed closures of zoos beyond the necessity will mean a steep increase in the risk of tragic consequences,” the zoo directors stated.
The directors have been following developments across Europe. “According to our colleagues, from May 3, important German zoos, such as Leipzig Zoo, Cologne Zoo or Dresden Zoo are reopening,” the director stated.
The zoos involved in the call for the earlier reopening are: Zoo Liberec, Zoo Zlín, Safari Park Dvůr Králové, Zoo Ostrava, Zoo Olomouc, Zoo Brno, Zoo Jihlava, Zoo Vyškov, Zoo Hodonín, Zoo Hluboká and Zoo Děčín. The list of signers does not include Prague Zoo, which is the largest in the Czech Republic.