A zoo in the Czech Republic is trying out a new way for its bored chimpanzees to monkey around during the coronavirus lockdown: face time with other primates.
The Safari Park in the northern town of Dvur Kralove installed a big screen in their enclosure to show them a livestream of what their fellow chimpanzees are doing on the other side of the country at a zoo in the southern city of Brno.
The Safari Park launched the experimental project Thursday to enrich the everyday life of their six chimpanzees amid a strict lockdown and give them some fun after crowds of visitors disappeared when the zoo closed on Dec 18. It's not clear when zoos will reopen.
Zookeeper Radek Hlavka said Monday the chimpanzees miss people and can get bored. Hlavka said the youngest female, "M" seems to be the chimpanzee to get the most excited about watching the other chimpanzees at the other zoo.
After a week, the zoo will evaluate the experiment and decide whether it should continue, possibly until the end of March.
"It's pretty complicated to entertain them for a long time," Hlavka said.
Zoos enrichment programmes introduce animals to novel experiences and keep them physically and mentally active.
However Covid-19 has led to novel programmes being trialled, with a lack of human visitors or contact with handlers.
In Texas State Aquarium they have begun introducing the dolphins to other animals from the neighbouring zoo. Visits from critters like Chico the sloth result in experiences that might never happen in the natural world, but keep intellectually curious animals like dolphins calm.
At Wellington Zoo during the national lockdown last year, zookeepers noticed the effect a lack of visitors were having on some of the animals.
"Some of our animals are looking for people, like the tigers," spokesperson Ash Howell told the Herald.
The chimpanzees and otters in particular seemed to miss human attention more than the other animals, he said.
- Associated Press with additional reporting.