animals do better than others in winter..
Last year started with tragedy for the Yerevan
Zoo, but ended with more animals than before and
with plans of animal matrimony.
Four predators at the zoo died last January after
eating meat poisoned by anthrax, prompting a municipal
investigation and criticism of zoo personnel.
"The past year of the goat, I can say was
both a good and a bad year for us," says
zoo director Sahak Abovyan (who has a fondness
for wearing ties with brightly-colored animal
images on them). "But at the end of the year
we managed to fill the places of the dead animals
by bringing several instead of one."
More than 40 animals have been added to the zoo
collection, including tigers, lynx, serval, black
panther and more than 20 birds.
But because of the zoo's general poor conditions,
animals are always vulnerable during the winter
months. Some animals were chosen based on their
hardiness for surviving cold weather.
"Amur tigers, which have been recently imported
are considered one of our biggest acquisitions,"
says deputy director of the zoo, Samvel Ghahramyan,
who is an admirer of predators. "They're
very beautiful and expensive animals and the visitors
will love them. They are considered one of the
biggest and can survive also in conditions of
the north, so they are the best ones for our winters."
director says winter presents special problems
for the zoo.
(Workers at the zoo say that even though it already
had several tigers, they are very old and in poor
health and cannot be exhibited.)
Each winter there is a survival struggle at the
zoo. Employees say they sometimes face a dilemma
of whether to spend their limited budget on food
for the animals or on ways to keep them warm.
"Our zoo is situated in such a picturesque
place that other zoos may dream of," Abovyan
says. "Many spend a lot of money for such
images of mountains and we have it, but the care
is so insufficient that each year we're facing
problems and the zoo grows more gray and dark.
If there were investments and the government treated
it more seriously everything would have been fine."
According to the director at present there are
more than 2,300 animals at the zoo, however the
conditions for survival are so poor that they
can hardly take care of the current population,
let alone thinking about importing new animals.
"The annual budget of the zoo is about 73
million drams (approx $130,000), which we don't
get in time," says Abovyan. "Fourty
three million (more than $76,000) is foreseen
for food and in the best case it takes 36 million
(about $64,000) to buy meat at cheap prices. But
we also need vegetables, seeds, the prices of
which have gone up 100 percent during the past
several months. As a result the zoo has 12 million
drams debt (approx $21,000) just for food. Those
people who have given us food on credit hope to
get their money back and if they don't they'll
never give us anything and I don't know what we'll
do in that case."
Additionally, the zoo owes 4 million drams (about
$7,000) for electricity for heating.
deputy director says visitors are going
to love the new cats.
"If we turn off heaters for one day, most
of the animals will die," says Abovyan. "We
always get phone calls from the power station
warning that they'll turn off the electricity,
but we hope they won't lose their conscience to
The "gray and dark" atmosphere at the
zoo is being brightened some this season in anticipation
of the arrival of a female elephant from India
- a gift promised by the Prime Minister of India.
Abovyan says everything is programmed for the
expected wedding, there's even a kavor (godfather)
for the couple - the president of Grand Holding,
Hrant Vardanyan, who sponsors the current elephant
"Grand" and will also sponsor the Indian
bride. There's even a name for the bride - Candy.
The director says they will do everything for
the Grand-Candy couple to like each other.
However, before the expected wedding, animals
of the zoo in their narrow metal cells and the
administration in its cold building are waiting
for spring, the end of cold season, and the expected
opening ceremony of the zoo in May.