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From penguins to monkeys and city doves. The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on other animals

The Corona pandemic has an enormous impact on the lives of millions of humans around the world. Not only for those who are infected, but also because of the social distancing and lockdown measures ordered in several countries in an effort to contain (or delay) the spread of the disease.

The Corona pandemic, although maybe more indirectly, also has an impact on the lives of millions of animals. From penguins, to fish, monkeys and mice, their lives have changed drastically. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

In Venice in Italy, the lockdown measures have cleared the canals from traffic and water is now cristal clear with fish visibly swimming around. A video on YouTube shows a dolphin playfully coming to greet humans at the port of Cagliari where ferries normally dock.

Public life coming to a standstill and dramatic declines in emissions from traffic and factories have caused a spectacular drop in pollution in many regions. This will not only positively affect the health and development of chronic diseases in humans but also in other animals.

With many animal zoos being closed to the public, staff are looking for ways to ‘enrich’ their lives. Penguins at the Chicago zoo were allowed to leave their habitat and explore the rest of the aquarium.

Gangs of monkeys in Thailand were filmed fighting over a banana. The monkeys are usually well-fed thanks to tourists, but are now going hungry because of the drastic drop in visitors.

As many people now spend much more time indoors, cases of domestic violence are surging.  Based on research of the so called ‘cruelty link’, it is very probably that more animal companions are now also victims of abuse.

The WHO says that animal companions such as cats and dogs can get infected with the coronavirus, but there is no evidence that animal companions can spread the disease or that the disease can cause them to fall ill (see also World Organisation for Animal Health). Nonetheless earlier in several villages in China, local officials had asked all residents to quarantine animals and slaughtered all stray dogs to contain the spread of the virus. Cats and dogs have reportedly been thrown from tower blocks in China after a rumour circulated claiming that the animals spread the coronavirus.
Some media report of a surge in animal companions being dumped because ‘owners’ are worried the animals will pass on the coronavirus. ‘Dog owners’ are buying face masks for their dogs to protect them from the coronavirus, even though health experts are not convinced other species can catch the disease. Other companion animal ‘owners’ have started a lucrative side career in renting out their dogs for walks, so people are able to get out of the house without being fined for unnecessary outdoor walks.

Black and white dog wearing a facial mask

China has announced a permanent ban on wildlife trade and consumption, but with a loophole for the trade in wild animals for medicinal uses.

Meanwhile the U.S. began its first human clinical trial for an experimental coronavirus vaccine without testing it first on animals. Other media outlets report about ‘lab animals’ who will ‘help fight’ (as if they voluntarily signed up) the corona virus: ‘Scientists are ramping up the breeding of lab mice as well as the testing of primates and other animals’.

There are countless other ways in which the lives of other animals are or will be impacted by the Corona pandemic.

Less traffic means less ‘roadkill’, less noise pollution and birds’ songs carrying much further, most definitely affecting their mating efforts. Deserted cities will make it more difficult for pigeons, gulls, sparrows, mice, rat, foxes, cats and other animals to feed on the usal abundant leftovers from city dwellers. Wild animals spending their lives locked up in zoos, will have a break from constanly being stared at. Dolphins, orcas and sea lions will get a break from performing their entertainment tricks to packed audiences. Many animal companions will see an increase in the time they get to spend with their caretakers, who are now obligatory working from home.

When I come across more stories of the impact of the COVID-19 or Corona pandemic on the lives of animals, I will add them here*: 

Animals in entertainment, zoos, tourism …
  • With the aquarium closed to humans, penguins take opportunity to explore and visit other animals, CNN.
  • Monkeys fight for food in Thailand after coronavirus slows tourism, New York Post.
  • Grand National cancelled because of Corona virus pandemic, BBC Sport.
  • As tourism plummets in Thailand, elephants are out of work too, New York Times.
  • CORONAVIRUS: CHESTER ZOO HOSTS VIRTUAL TOUR LIVE STREAM TO ENTERTAIN THOSE IN ISOLATION, Independent.
  • ‘The animals aren’t pleased’: UK zoos under coronavirus lockdown, The Guardian.
  • Coronavirus: Goats take over empty streets of seaside town, BBC.
  • Fears for animal welfare as first Australian state bans horse and dog racing amid coronavirus crisis, The Guardian.
  • The Bronx Zoo Is Also Empty, but the Animals Don’t Mind, The New York Times.
  • Animal tragic: New Zealand zoos strive to entertain lonely inhabitants amid lockdown, The Guardian.
Animals in nature, wild animals, urban animals, …
  • China’s Ban on Wildlife Trade a Big Step, but Has Loopholes, Conservationists Say, The New York Times.
  • Africa’s mountain gorillas also at risk from coronavirus, AP News.
  • Emboldened wild animals venture into locked-down cities worldwide, The Guardian.
  • Illegal wildlife trade goes online as China shuts down markets, Ajazeera.
  • Let op: Mogelijk meer dieren langs de weg door weinig verkeer (Beware: more animals along the road because of less traffic), Rijkswaterstaat.
  • Frightened Mobs in Peru Burn Hundreds of Bats With Torches as Coronavirus Hysteria Grows, Mind Unleashed.
  • Giant leap for toadkind after Yorkshire fell runs are cancelled, The Guardian.
  • Endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles nest in peace at empty Odisha beaches as Coronavirus keeps people in lock down, Bussiness insider.
  • Pigeons at risk of starvation over coronavirus empty streets, DW.
  • More than 100 wild animals in China died from poisoning in a mass die-off seemingly triggered by coronavirus disinfectant, Bussiness Insider.
  • CORONAVIRUS: 15 STUNNING PHOTOS SHOW HOW ANIMALS ARE RECLAIMING HUMAN SPACES, Inverse.
  • The Coronavirus Lockdown Is a Threat for Many Animals, Not a Blessing, Wired.
  • Coronavirus Slowing Desert Locust Response Amid New Swarms, Bloomberg.
  • First goats, now DEER! Herd takes over east London housing estate by lounging on front lawns as animals continue to roam deserted streets during coronavirus lockdown, Dailymail.
Farmed animals, agriculture, slaughterhouses, animals as food, …
  • Hundreds of millions of chickens at risk of being wiped out with much of China locked down due to virus, CNBC.
  • Coronavirus: Chickens sell out as families try to set up small holdings to make their own food, The Telegraph.
  • Coronavirus sparks concerns for live export trade as workers baulk at long trips overseas, ABC.
  • U.S. under pressure to keep slaughterhouses open during virus outbreak, Reuters.
  • What Happens If Workers Cutting Up the Nation’s Meat Get Sick?, Propublica.
  • Is factory farming to blame for coronavirus?, The Guardian.
  • America Stress Bought All the Baby Chicks, The New York Times.
  • Karnataka Poultry Farmer Buries Alive 6,000 Chickens in Mass Grave as Coronavirus Impacts Sale, News 18.
  • Chinese city of Shenzhen to ban eating cats and dogs, Bangkok Post.
  • Coronavirus: Humans suffer but also animals in transport over borders, The Brussels Times.
  • Cattle gridlock: EU border delays add to coronavirus strain on meat trade, The Guardian.
  • Coronavirus sparks concerns for live export trade as workers baulk at long trips overseas, ABC.
  • Coronavirus: ‘severe shock’ to UK fishing as markets dry up, The Guardian.
  • Closed Borders and Quarantine Measures Pose Direct Threat to Transport Animal Welfare, Sentient Media.
Animals used in research, ‘lab animals’
  • THE CORONAVIRUS VACCINE WON’T BE TESTED ON ANIMALS, Livekindly.
  • These Lab Animals Will Help Fight Coronavirus, The New York Times.
  • ‘It’s heartbreaking.’ Labs are euthanizing thousands of mice in response to coronavirus pandemic, Science Mag.
  • The US keeps millions of chickens in secret farms to make flu vaccines. But their eggs won’t work for coronavirus, CNN.
  • Trump Administration Orders $1.8M in Coronavirus Research Monkeys, Daily Beast.
  • Chinese wildlife ban freezes export of test monkeys amid worldwide push for COVID-19 vaccine, The Globe and Mail.
Animal companions
  • Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), World Organisation for Animal Health.
  • WHO says pets are generally safe from being infected with coronavirus, Quartz.
  • ‘Dogs and cats reportedly thrown from apartments’ in China over coronavirus fears, NZ Herald.
  • COVID-19: Feral cat numbers expected to explode, says B.C. animal welfare advocate Kathy Powelson, Straight.
  • Surge in pets being dumped because owners are worried the animals will pass on coronavirus, Manchester Evening News.
  • Chinese dog owners rush to buy coronavirus masks for their pooches, New York Post.
  • Coronavirus and Cats: What Cat Owners Need to Know About COVID-19, Catster.
  • Coronavirus and Your Dog: No Need to Panic Yet, The New York Times.
  • SPANIARDS BEGIN RENTING OUT THEIR DOGS SO OTHERS UNDER CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN CAN TAKE WALKS ‘WITHOUT GETTING FINED’, The Olive Press.
  • South Africa bans walking dogs, Spain cracks down on ‘pet rentals’ amid coronavirus crisis, New York Post.
  • Spending More Time with Your Pet due to COVID-19? Strategies to Cope, Companion animal Psychologie.
  • COVID-19: Feral cat numbers expected to explode, says B.C. animal welfare advocate Kathy Powelson, Straight.
  • Coronavirus: Belgian woman infected her cat, The Brussels Times.
  • Don’t Self Isolate Alone: Animal Shelter Encourages Fostering a Pet During Coronavirus Pandemic, People.
  • Newest Shortage in New York: The City Is Running Out of Dogs to Foster, Bloomberg.
  • It’s not just humans suffering under the lockdown—dogs are, too, Kathmandu Post.
  • Coronavirus: Pet owners should prepare for getting sick – SPCA, RNZ.
  • Covid19: What are Dogs Telling us by Saying Nothing at all?, Animals in Society.
  • Cats and dogs abandoned at the start of the coronavirus outbreak are now starving or being killed, CNN.
  • Cats can infect each other with coronavirus, Chinese study finds, The Guardian.
General
  • Think Exotic Animals Are to Blame for the Coronavirus? Think Again, The Nation.
  • Coronavirus: China promotes bile from caged bears to treat pandemic ‘caused by exploiting wildlife’, Independent.
  • Staying Active for the Animals During a Pandemic, Medium.
  • Pangolin Rescue Center Reminds Us That the Animals Are Not to Blame, Tenderly Medium.

*Update April 1, 2020. I have categorised the links for pragmatic reasons. I realise any categorisation is quite arbitrary.

Geertrui Cazaux (Trudi in English). Vegan. Gardener. Wife. Disabled. Writer. Activist. Caretaker. Ex-academic. Wannebee drummer. °1970. Belgium. Vegetarian since mid '90's and vegan since 2010. My main motive has always been the ethical perspective, although I am also inspired by the environmental and health aspects. Writing about veganism, animal rights and ableism on Graswortels.org, Brugesvegan.com, and CripHumanimal.org

1 comment on “From penguins to monkeys and city doves. The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on other animals

  1. Pingback: Covid19: What are Dogs Telling us by Saying Nothing at all? – Animals in Society

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