It’s mealtime in Greece’s only zoo, and a capuchin monkey catches as many tangerines as it can – even by tucking one into its long, floppy tail. It might be a good idea to refuel.
After being closed for almost three months due to COVID-19, the zoo on the edge of Athens could be on the verge of extinction: without paying visitors or – unlike other European zoos – enough government support to Covering its very special needs, the Attica Zoological Park faces huge bills to keep 2,000 animals well fed and healthy.
“As it is… we can still go on for at least a month,” said zoo founder and CEO Jean Jacques Lesueur. “After that, we don’t know.
Unlike some businesses forced to shut down temporarily due to virus control restrictions, the zoo continues to have significant operating expenses. Between food, salaries, utilities, medical care and other expenses, the cost of animal care currently exceeds 200,000 euros ($ 243,000) per month.
“It’s the difference between us and other businesses: when they close, they close. We are closing, but we are not closing, ”Lesueur told The Associated Press.
Founded in 2000 and located in the town of Spata, the zoo occupies 20 hectares (50 acres) and is home to 290 species, from elephants to prairie dogs. It is involved in education, conservation and husbandry, and belongs to the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which has around 400 members.
Visitors account for over 99% of its revenue, which includes sales of tickets, food and drink, and gift shops. So every month counts, and the loss in December, which is usually heavy because of the Christmas holidays, was particularly heavy.
So far the suppliers have been understanding and accept credit. Two-thirds of the zoo’s staff are on state-funded leave, and a planned slice of state aid will cover this month’s salary for the rest, Lesueur said.
The zoo also sold 5,000 advance tickets at discounted prices for the end of the lockdown, and Lesueur said that helped pay December wages.