Animal parks in the corona crisis: who pays for the food?

The parks lack revenue from admission fees, and the cost of food remains. One park now gives its animals to volunteers in care.

He is hungry: wolf in the Schorfheide Wildlife Park Photo: dpa

Animal and wildlife parks in Brandenburg worry about their survival because of the Corona crisis. Since the beginning of the week, their gates have been closed to visitors. This poses huge problems for private-sector parks in particular – they finance themselves mainly through entrance fees. "We can still get through the next four weeks. After that, I don’t know how things will continue," says Imke Heyter, managing director of the Schorfheide Wildlife Park.

There are currently 250 wild animals living there, including two wolf packs, elk and lynx. They also have to be fed and cared for when there are no visitors. She can’t get anywhere with aid loans, Heyter says – that would only delay a wildlife park closure. "I’m not sleeping well right now. For the first time in 24 years of the game park, I’m afraid it won’t go on."

Jan Tayeb, general manager of Wildpark Johannismuhle, also has reserves for the next four to six weeks – nothing more. "Between Easter and the end of the summer vacations, we usually make our annual income," he says. However, he is now not allowed to rent out the vacation apartments on the grounds, and visitors are also no longer allowed to come to the park with brown bears, wild horses and bison.

But the costs for staff, feed and electricity continue, even though half the workforce is already on short-time working. What can help? "That’s the big question. I think it’s unlikely that we’ll be allowed to reopen with an exemption," he says. On the park’s homepage, he is calling for donations of food and money to help preserve his park.

How parks can be helped varies from farm to farm, says Jens Kammerling, chairman of the Brandenburg State Zoo Association and director of the Cottbus Zoo. "One might be helped by loans, others won’t get anything out of it," Kammerling explains. In the federation 19 animal and game parks in Brandenburg united, a not insignificant part of it is in private sponsorship. About the further procedure at present still one discusses.

Animals are given into care

The children’s animal park in the Frauensee Children’s and Youth Recreation Center (KiEZ) in Heidesee (Dahme-Spreewald), meanwhile, is relying on a pragmatic solution and is temporarily putting its approximately 100 animals into care. This saves on personnel costs, says managing director Nora Runneck. The park is mainly home to small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs, but also ponies, goats and sheep. They are to return as soon as operations can continue.

But for parks with large animals and wildlife, such a thing is not an option, Kammerling says – they can’t be housed anywhere else. "You can’t put a wolf in a shelter," says Imke Heyter of the Schorfheide Wildlife Park as well. Of around 20 employees, only five are still working there; Heyter has put all the others on short-time work. The park says it has around 80,000 to 100,000 visitors a year.

Funds instead of loans

"It’s actually really nice right now," Heyter says, talking about the many young sheep and goats that have just been born. But she can’t really be happy right now. She needs 50,000 euros per month for the ongoing operation. To keep it going, it is now hoping for help from the state – in the form of funds, not loans.