a day of cold rain there are few visitors at the
Yerevan Zoo. The director says less than a dozen
visitors have come in the last two weeks.
"It is a pity few people come here in winter,"
says director Sahak Abovyan. "The zoo is
beautiful when crowded."
But crowded or empty, there are some 200 species
to be cared for and Yerevan's harsh winter makes
the task a challenge.
"There are so many problems in the winter,"
says the head of Predators' Department Yunona
Khanzadyan. "The area was cleaned from the
snow, salt was strewed on the snow, but anyway
water in the cages freezes."
Each day hot water is poured into containers
to thaw the animals' drinking water. Abovyan says
workers argue over which animal ought to get the
special treatment first.
of the animals, such as monkeys and bears, have
special winter sections built into their cages.
Bears get special attention during the winter,
as the females are pregnant during these months.
Khanzadyan says the zoo has a new cub that the
workers haven't even seen yet and that "we
have only heard its voice."
Monkeys are locked in their "winter apartments"
as soon as winter comes. Their food is the same
all winter long; they eat same things as human
beings -- fruits, vegetables, tea, milk, sweets.
"We can include citruses in their menu,
and I assure you we can provide them with citruses
at least once a month, but they don't contain
enough calories," Khanzadyan says. "Everybody
thinks that a monkey can be satisfied with only
For animals that require warmth, planks are placed
on the cage floors, covered with grass that is
changed daily to keep dry.
important problem is that we haven't got good
open-air cages for some animals," said Abovyan.
"Open-air cages for big cats don't correspond
to their norms. We would like to have bigger open-air
cages, appropriate to the animal, which would
let them not feel like in a prison cell. But this
is connected with serious financial problems."
Sheds are prepared and grass is put in the cages
of the big cats. In winter they usually live thanks
to their energy and that's why workers increase
the percentage of the food during that season
of the year.
As all of Yerevan shutters under winter's grip,
so too do the animals here. But none, Khanzadyan
says, has died due to cold which has been extreme
already this winter.
"I'm surprised," she says, "when
someone says 'the zoo is closed, why you are working
here now?' We are working for the animals, who
became very close to us. Many things connect us
with them. Anyone who doesn't love animals cannot
work here for a long time."