Lakshmi Natarajan talks about the Zoo during the COVID19 crisis in an entertaining combination of prose and poetry.

What strange times we are currently living in! Challenging as it may be for us humans to come to terms with this new and indefinite reality, spare a thought for the animals around us, who must be finding it even more difficult to understand the current scenario.

Stories in social media range from deliriously happy dogs, over the moon to have their owners home 24/7, to annoyed cats, less than pleased at having to share their space with the constant presence of their owners (or ‘subjects’ as cats no doubt refer to us lowly humans).

There have also been cartoons galore. My two favourite dog ones portray one dog getting his own back by putting a dog cone around his owner’s neck to prevent the owner from touching his face, and another dog asking his owner to be a good boy at home as he himself heads out the door!

Photo of Lakshmi Natarajan


I have been volunteering at the Zürich Zoo since July 2006 and have been fortunate to work with around 60% of the Zoo’s inhabitants.

My duties involve working as an assistant to the Zookeepers. That, in essence means, preparing food and feeding the creatures we care for, and of course cleaning, cleaning, cleaning! My area of expertise is all things penguin.

In keeping with the federal regulations, the Zoo closed its doors to the public on March 14, 2020. The Zookeepers still go in everyday to feed their charges, but no volunteers are allowed for now.

It has been extremely peculiar for me to be in Zürich yet away from the Zoo for this long! I miss my critters and cannot help but wonder about what they must be feeling and thinking.

Here is my interpretation in verse.

“Where, oh where, is everybody?”, the puzzled gorillas cried.
“The visitors to the Zoo, you see, they kept us occupied.”
“We always used to target them from above with our pee and poo”,
Said the dejected red ruffed lemurs, who miss us visitors too.
“We are already semi-solitary”, said the wise orangutans.
“So be more like us, and limit contact with other humans.”

The camelids exclaimed, “We can be your measure of space!
“Between you and others an imaginary llama you should place.
Our keepers are happier than those of any other mammal.
Social distancing is really easy when they go out walking with a camel.”
The penguins reported, “We do not feel our days are really any duller.
‘Tho when the Indian volunteer worked here, those fish buckets did look fuller!”

The new African Savannah inhabitants were bound to be confused.
“We expected hordes of visitors to see and admire us”, they mused.
“We passed our own quarantine in time for the grand unveiling,
Only now the humans have their own quarantine protocol prevailing!”
“We really hope we see you all soon”, echoed throughout the Zoo.
“Until then, stay safe, stay home, and remember to wash your hands too!”

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