With visitors shut out over what should have been a busy Easter weekend, funds and foodstuffs are dwindling at a north German zoo as the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to bite.
The animal park in Neumünster, 50km north of Hamburg, has said it may have to begin feeding some animals to others to survive.
Zoo Director Verena Kaspari told Die Welt reporters that this 'modest proposal' would have to be brought into action by the middle of May if the park continued to be shut.
"The problem of having to feed meat eating animals is nothing new. But even if business stops we need to feed our carnivorous animals to survive."
"We've made a list of animals to slaughter first," she told Die Welt.
One particularly hungry inmate at the zoo is Vitus the polar bear. Weighing around 700kg he is the largest of his kind in Germany. His big appetite and size is a further problem for the zoo.
If worst comes to worst and the zoo has to close, they will not be able to transport Vitus to another facility, Kaspari explains.
"He is no Pony, that you can keep in a stall. He's our biggest predator, that needs adequate space and food."
Euthanising the animals is a last course of action, but they insist sacrificing some animals for the survival of others is the least worst option.
The Neumünster Zoo is currently not covered by the state's crisis fund for small businesses.
The German Zoo Association (VdZ) has been arguing that running costs of zoos – which cannot go into hibernation – are much higher during forced closure than other businesses. With foodstuffs and climate-controlled habitats for tropical animals, the running cost during lockdown was estimated by the VdZ at around €500,000 ($900,000) a week.
However food is far from the most expensive consideration of zoos. Like most businesses, the payroll of a zoo is its biggest expense. In Vienna, Schönbrunn Zoo has furloughed 70 per cent of its 230 workers until July, according to the BBC.
Other zoos and wildlife parks in the region have dismissed the suggestion that their animals should have to be euthanised or slaughtered for foodstuff. "That simply wouldn't happen here," said a spokesperson for Hamburg's Hagenbecks Tierpark.
The environment minister for Schleswig-Holstein insisted that no zoo animals should have to be destroyed as a result of the crisis, saying that there is financial aid already available to help businesses tide over the emergency.
Ben Pearson, Campaign Executive at World Animal Protection said:
"Animals that should not have been in captivity in the first place should not have to suffer from a human-caused crisis.
"World Animal Protection is urging zoos around the world to create care plans with their animals' best interests at heart, and seek government assistance if this cannot be done."