New Delhi: Wondering what animals in zoos are up to in the lockdown? You can get an idea through the live video streaming of animals at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park (AAZP) in Chennai, also known as Vandalur Zoo.
In a first of its kind in India, fourteen species, including tiger, lion and Indian Gaur, are streamed live through the day for free on the zoo's official website and app.
While zoo officials had been live-streaming animals for around two years, the viewership has increased multifold amidst the lockdown period.
Sudha Ramen, Deputy director of AAZP, says they have received about 4.5 crore page views and over 50,000 app downloads.
"We have seen a good increase in the lockdown period. I can say it's at least a five-fold increase. Per day we are getting 60,000 to 80,000 page views, earlier it used to be 10,000 to 15,000," she tells News 18.
"We’re the only zoo to do it in India and maybe the world. Some species like tigers and lions go back to the shelters in the night so they might not be round the clock, but some like Indian Gaur, Crocodile etc. can be viewed 24x7.”
The facility features one species per day on its Facebook page. “When we focus on one species' activities, like say a special shower, people are interested," she says.
Home to more than 2,600 animals, the zoo has been closed for the public since March 17. Summer is usually a busy time for zoos, but this year has been different for the animals thanks to the lockdown. Without humans to trouble them with noise and even unruly behaviour in some instances, animals have reportedly been stress-free and relaxed.
Officials say their required supplies for the animals had not been affected due to the coronavirus lockdown, as they are part of the government's essential services list.
With or without humans around, the zoo authorities have ensured that the animals' routines are not changed. For instance, they are still taken for walks to ensure physical activity and to maintain their metabolism. The animals also come to the display areas, even though there's no audience.
"It's a routine they're used to, and changing that now will be a deterrent," says Sudha.
So far, the animals haven't shown any variation in their behaviour due to the absence of visitors.
"They're normal, they don't show any visible changes," the Director says. "If there are any psychological changes, it will reflect in the amount of feed they take. But so far the feed pattern is good and normal. We also have CCTV cameras installed at every animal enclosure, so we're monitoring them around the clock. We will be able to detect if there is even a slight change."
While the initial concerns around zoos were around supplies, zoo officials have expressed concerns ever since a tiger at New York's Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19 after contracting the illness from a caretaker.
Authorities at AAZP are monitoring animals and taking all precautions to avoid human to animal transmission amid the pandemic.
"It's not necessary to test unless the animal shows visible symptoms," explains Sudha. “The animal keepers go through a protocol and are screened before going for their daily work, making the possibility of spreading from a human to animal is quite low here. Our doctors are monitoring them and even if there's the slightest change in the behaviour, we would be able to detect. We are in touch with advanced wildlife institutes and we have enough experts on board to handle the situations."