COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — To forestall the worst of Covid devastation, Sri Lanka imposed lockdowns and stopped flights from overseas for practically a yr, battering the financial system and drying up a significant tourism trade.
For animals within the island nation’s zoos, nonetheless, it’s been a jolly time.
Amid the absence of tourists, animal births within the zoos rose 25 p.c over the previous yr, in accordance with Ishini Wickremesinghe, the director normal of Sri Lanka’s Division of Nationwide Zoological Gardens. Notably placing, she mentioned, is that a number of animals that would not have a historical past of breeding in native zoos have given beginning.
“Animals are literally having a less-stress and relaxed time with no folks round,” she mentioned.
Sri Lanka closed its zoos in March 2020, briefly reopening to guests earlier this yr earlier than closing once more as coronavirus infections rose. Among the many 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 even have three new lion cubs,” Ms. Wickremesinghe mentioned. “After years, the animals actually obtained a superb break.”
The cubs are about six months outdated now.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 “positively stress-free,” mentioned Manoj Vidyaratne, the warden of Yala Nationwide Park on the island’s southeastern coast. “Often, we see about 400 autos within the park day by day,” he mentioned, “however this time there is no such thing as a one.”
Creatures in captivity elsewhere, too, have taken benefit of the pandemic to procreate. Final April, two giant pandas successfully mated on the Hong Kong zoo, which was closed to guests as a result of coronavirus.
Sri Lanka, an early success story in containing the unfold of the virus, has skilled a current surge and is recording practically 3,000 new day by day infections, according to a New York Times database. The pandemic has worsened the financial woes of a rustic that was already struggling to recuperate 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 yr earlier than the pandemic.
Regardless of the affect on income, Ms. Wickremesinghe mentioned she hoped to maintain the zoos closed till instances drop, fearing that primates might catch Covid-19 from an contaminated customer. “We don’t know what to do if that occurs,” she mentioned.