Even before the first shutdown, Avivona closed its doors as a precaution. Because of the Corona crisis, the bird zoo learned that it is very resilient: “Animals do not care about Corona”

In March 2020, Prime Minister Rutte announced that the country was more or less on the way to shutdown. What is your first reaction to that?

“We weren’t surprised at all. We have a lot of contact with the mayor and other zoos in the Netherlands. Fourteen days before closing, even daily.”

Then you thought among yourselves: Is this not okay?

Before Prime Minister Rutte decided to shut down the country, we closed all our doors. Precautionary, because we didn’t need that yet. We last opened on March 13, 2020. We found it cheater For the safety of our employees and visitors. The Netherlands was very frightened, as a result of which the number of our visitors decreased rapidly. We thought there was no stopping this.”

In the first corona lockdown, it was believed that it was a few weeks. In practice, it turned out to be more stubborn. How did you deal with that?

“We assumed that we would open again on June 1. It turned out to be true. In winter the number of visitors is much less, and we have to rely mainly on spring and summer. We take care of our animals with money from entry income, food and care. And this money never came .. .”

But the costs persisted. Animals must have food. How did you get that?

“Our costs lasted for nearly a hundred percent, no income. I was interested. Luckily we had some bone fat. Fortunately, the government also quickly came up with various schemes. We were entitled to an emergency temporary measure of employment (NOW scheme), so We were compensated fairly and didn’t have to kick anyone out. Unfortunately, we didn’t renew some contracts. We opened in June 2020, when the visitor numbers were a bit disappointing, but in July and August it was really busy. People were excited about it again. I’ve seen Kind of a catch-up effect.”

(text continues below image)

Tradition of the Pampas region of South America, now under construction in Avifauna. Archive photo Hielco Kuipers

Did the lack of visitors also cause investment delays, for example?

“As a zoo we invest a lot, for example in new animal pens. We have made many of these investments I’m waiting put. Because of the Corona virus, the municipality is starting to worry about us, so a support fund has been set up. They helped us with the investments we put off, but we stuck with them. They were very helpful. I got a taste of the mood in the government: Corona is very annoying, but animals don’t have to be victims of that. And not only this: Subscribers have extended their subscription despite our closure. We collect money in the park. Usually this amount reaches thousands of euros, but it has become more than that. Visitors and the money we use are becoming more generous.”

Catering companies sold a lot of coupons during the lockdown, which you can support the company with. Did you also forge such actions?

Subscribers continued their membership en masse. When the subscription expired, we emailed with the message: “You can cancel, but we are going through hard times and animals are having a tough time. You can help us by unsubscribing. There was a hearing.”

Also read: Avifauna celebrates Corona Resort with the opening of a new residence for sea eagles: “We lived sleepless nights”

When you were allowed to open again in June 2020, you weren’t allowed to open “as usual” yet. How did it go?

“It was a hassle. Creating a one-way street, required booking a demonstration of birds, disinfection devices, keeping away from animals…it was all done by volunteers. They never helped much.”

Did the staff not get frustrated because they had to constantly remind visitors of the rules?

“Thousands of people come here. There are people among those who find the rules of Corona boring. It’s not fun for volunteers and staff. But you do it for people and animals. It’s annoying, but it should be. With guided tours next to the positives to point out a meter and a half. This is very different. Yet they had tremendous motivation.”

I demanded different schemes. Did you have to pay a lot for it?

“We had to put something back, and the amount shifted back and forth a little bit. In the end it worked.”

(text continues below image)

An employee at Avifauna with colored lures.

An employee at Avifauna with colored lures. Archive photo: Taco van der Eb

So the summer of 2020 went just fine, but then you had to shut down again. How was that?

The party started again. The second closing was more unexpected than the first. We thought we were done with that. It was deceiving. Fortunately, since June 2021, many visitors have visited the park again and it has got us fat in our bones. So at the end of 2021 we decided to invest in a new animal shelter. That was exciting, but we were compensated enough that we dared.”

That’s wild guesswork in the middle of a forced lockdown…

“Believes. But we must continue to evolve. Better and better accommodations for animals and more fun for visitors.”

Were there times when you’d be up at night fearing the survival of the bird park?

“Definitely in the first year of Corona. It was worrying. In June 2020, the number of visitors was late, people were careful. Then you wonder: How long can we keep this? The moment Corona is over, and visitors are allowed to come but they don’t come, worry. Suppose that One stayed at home? Woke me up. In the first months of the lockdown, I was also awake a lot. But it turned out that Avifauna’s support and supporters were so great that I was less worried during the second lockdown. I knew: they wouldn’t let us suffocate. During the first lockdown, a member called The local council and the mayor to ask how things have been going. Avifauna is very important to the city. People think you can’t leave animals to their own devices. I think even if you stop paying salaries, employees will still come.”

Also read: Avifona’s childless birds of prey get adoption vultures from Rotterdam: ‘Great way to protect endangered species’

Avivona does not have a huge financial leftover from the Corona crisis?

“We stood a little more than we wanted, because we wanted to invest. That went a little lower. But we picked the floss a little bit. When you walk in the park now, you’ll see it’s occupied. In the meantime, we’re totally innovating.”

What are the lessons learned from the crisis?

“Going to the zoo or nature gives people a lot of peace. If you lock people up, you will see that there is a huge need for animals, nature and zoos. We have proven that they are very creative and flexible, animal caretakers have started to clean toilets. As a company you are flexible. Even if we humans have a big problem, nature and animals go on as usual. They lay eggs and have young. Animals don’t care about corona. Even the animals missed the visitors.”

Bottom line: Do you see yourself as a winner or a loser from this crisis?

I am too optimistic to consider myself a loser. Even a bad experience is a good experience. We have learned a lot from him. In bad times you get to know your friends. In the crisis we noticed that we have many friends. As a team we come out stronger.”

Also read: Avifauna builds new enclosure for giant anteater and llama doppelgänger Vicuna: ‘So cuddly and cute’

Leave a Comment