June 12, 2020 / 12:58 PM / 20 days ago

Animal baby boom at Palestinian zoo after people disappear

QALQILYA, West Bank (Reuters) - Peacocks, ostriches and baboons joined in an animal baby boom at a Palestinian zoo during the coronavirus closure as they let nature take its course free from human distractions.

Fifteen animals were born at the tiny Qalqilya Zoo in the Israeli-occupied West Bank during the two months that it shut its doors to visitors - three times more than usual, zoo officials said.

“The coronavirus spread at the same time that trips were expected at the zoo. They were cancelled and therefore the animals started to give birth,” said zoo veterinarian Sami Khader.

An ostrich that laid eggs in normal years rarely had the chance to incubate them properly. But this year she produced 11 eggs and “because there weren’t people around her, she was able to build a nest”, he said.

In the monkey enclosure, usually bedevilled by miscarriages, one baboon gave birth, although she had little inclination to take care of the baby.

“My father had to bring him to our house,” said the vet’s daughter, Hind Khader. “I took care of him and gave him milk.”

The zoo reopened in late May as Palestinian officials eased COVID-19 restrictions. Now zoo managers hope the newborn attractions will be enough of a draw to compensate for 200,000 lost visitors.

Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Giles Elgood

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