Dear Friends,

April 8thhas for years been classified as Zoo Lovers Day, a day to visit and enjoy zoos. This year the story is quite different due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the zoos around the world are closed now and facing serious problems taking care of their animals without the financial support of paying visitors. This also has a direct impact on the impact of conservation projects for the Masarang Foundation and the Sintang Orangutan Center in Indonesia. Karlsruhe Zoo has been one of the most important supporters in 2020 and to our surprise and great relief the zoo was able to send another donation in April this year, just before Zoo Lovers Day. 

We sincerely appreciate the wonderful support from our friends and Nature Lovers at the zoo. The Zoo Director Dr. Matthias Reinschmidt and the orangutan EEP coordinator Dr. Clemens Becker are both ardent carers for nature and they both know our projects, having visited previously. Without the help and support from Karlsruhe Zoo this would be an even more difficult time as we still must feed and care for the animals in our care and pay our hard-working staff. Together with my dear friend and kind supporter, Frank Elstner, they put out a call that helped us survive 2020. In addition to their direct support through the Karlsruhe Artenschutz Stiftung, the call also resulted in some much-needed funds from other caring individual supporters in Germany. 

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On the left Adrienne Watson-Smits of the Masarang Hong Kong Foundation, Dr. Clemens Becker (orangutan studbook keeper for Europe) and on my right director Dr. Matthias Reinschmidt from Karlsruhe zoo. Dr. Becker and Dr. Reinschmidt are also responsible for the associated foundation for animal species protection from where this wonderful donation orginated.

 

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Since this pandemic has also everything to do with our environmental degradation and animals, it might also be good to look at the role zoos now can play in educating the public about the risks of keeping exotic pets and sometimes illegal wildlife. Corona viruses come from bats that can transfer a huge array of Corona viruses to other mammals in which they mutate and if those mammals are then poached and smuggled, they can bring the diseases from nature to human populations. The destruction of the natural environment brings people ever more frequently in closer contact with animals that have more problems finding food and places to live and roam. 

 

This pandemic could become a valuable lesson to spur politicians and the larger public into action to preserve nature and protect wildlife and forests. And through contributions like our friends from Karlsruhe we can make a big difference in the field, not just for animals but also for the people living close to the remaining forests through providing them with alternative and improved sustainable incomes. This information can then be distributed to the zoos so that they can continue to further educate and inform the public and show that there are positive solutions if we are willing to learn from nature.

So to all zoo lovers, enjoy the zoos when you can but also please promote their role in safeguarding the animals in their original areas. This is one small world and if we are going to last we will have to do things together in an integrated way.

Willie Smits

8-4-2021