Insta-puppies and kittens across the world are having an amazing 2020! Their parents (us, humans) are spending more time working from home equaling more cuddles, treats and selfies! However, 2020 has not been as fun and treat-filled for animals in the wild, zoos, and shelters. Here’s why.

Animals in the wild:  Many dream of going on a African Safari, to see the rarest and most beautiful animals in the world. The common goal in an African Safari’s is to check off seeing the “Big 5”; lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and the African Buffalo. One of the main reasons why tourists can’t complete their list is because they can’t seem to get hold of the rhino. Currently, there are fewer than 30,000 rhinos in the world and are steadily dropping due to the repercussions of COVID-19. The worldwide pandemic has caused a decrease in tourism, which has led to reduced efforts in rhino conservatism. In this period, poaching has increased, shifting the balance of the ecosystem and the protection of these coveted animals. As highlighted in National Geographic, the absence of safari tourists has forced the massed evacuation of black rhinos in Botswana.

Rhinos are just one example of an animal that is on the edge of extinction from the recent global shifts. Others such as the pangolins, and leopards are all facing increased challenges from the lack of animal activists, conservationists, and law enforcement officers enforcing poaching laws. More and more animals are being killed for their body parts. One way you can help is by calling people out if they are flaunting a rhino horn or a tiger skin. This could save some animals in the wild by reducing the demand for illegally poached animal products.

Animals in zoos: As one zoo aptly summarizes “you can’t furlough animals in the zoo”. During the pandemic, countless zoo’s have been forced to shut down. Without visitors, zoo’s are taking a major financial hit, which has impacted their ability to properly feed the animals the required amounts of food needed on a daily basis. And if we’ve learned anything from the Netflix docuseries Tiger King, it’s that a tiger can eat pounds and pounds of food (~25 lbs a day). It is critical to ensure these organizations have adequate funds to run daily operations else your favorite “happy Panda” might not be so happy next time you visit .

Zoo-keepers are also noticing stark behavioral changes in socially intelligent animals such as gorillas and otters who are missing human interaction. By forcing animals into captivity, we have created an environment where they regularly interact with humans and as a result are experiencing withdrawal symptoms and behavioral issues. This increases the riskiness to the safety of zookeepers.

Animals in shelters: Similarly, animals in shelters are facing the pressures of the pandemic. They are surviving on limited resources and short-handed staff who are already running on crisis mode. For larger shelters, the move to virtual has made all the difference while smaller local shelters are struggling to stay afloat while properly taking care of their animals.

This has opened up an avenue for volunteers like you and me to temporarily foster animals, visit centers virtually, and donate. If you can adopt, please do so, there are virtual ways for you to meet your future pet. If you are unable to adopt- please donate to your local animal shelter.