This Safari Park Is Hosting Virtual Playdates for Chimps With Other Zoos

At least someone still loves virtual meetings.

You might be over Zoom calls, but at the zoo, virtual animal meetings are still all the rage.

According to USA Today, the Safari Park Zoo located in Dvur Kralove, Czech Republic, has installed a big screen in its chimpanzee enclosure to allow the animals to watch what their chimp friends are doing on the other side of the country at a zoo in Brno. The program, which launched on Thursday, is all in an effort to enrich the lives of the animals as the park remains closed due to the pandemic.

chimpanzee laying down and looking up at a screen
Simona Jiřičková

"It's pretty complicated to entertain them for a long time," Zookeeper Radek Hlavka told USA Today. Hlavka noted that the animals do indeed miss seeing people and can get bored rather easily. As for who is having the most fun with the video livestreams, Hlavka said the youngest female, "M" seems to get the most excited, you know, like that one person in your office who still dresses up and turns her camera on for virtual meetings.

While this may seem like just a silly new thing for the chimpanzees to play with, it actually serves a very real purpose for animal wellness.

close-up of chimpanzee laying down on a playdate
Simona Jiřičková

"We have noticed that some of our more 'social' animals are not a fan of the stay at home and social distancing orders," Linda Hardwick, communications director at the Phoenix Zoo shared with the BBC about their own animal issues in 2020. "Primates especially have noticed our guests are gone and go looking for them." To combat this, Hardwick said the zoo's employees are taking extra steps to visit the animals as often as possible.

chimpanzee laying down and looking up at a screen
Simona Jiřičková

Other zoos are getting creative too, including allowing interspecies mingling to pass the time. In July 2020, the San Antonio Zoo brought in foster kittens from an area shelter to visit with their bigger cat friends, the lions and tigers.

"This is such a fun way to showcase both of our organization's missions and highlight the care we provide for animals in need and use the zoo's platform to promote responsible pet ownership and adoption," Tim Morrow, president and CEO of the San Antonio Zoo, said in a statement.

And, of course, many zoos around the world are continuing to showcase their animals in one-way livestreams so you can check in on your favorite creatures. Then, when the time comes, plan a visit to see them in person and give them the warm hello they deserve.

Stacey Leasca is a journalist, photographer, and media professor. Send tips and follow her on Instagram now.

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