Zookeepers have been showing up in place of visitors for the animals' "meet the public" time slots while the zoos in New Zealand are closed to guests in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19

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Orana Wildlife Park
Credit: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto/Getty

While people around the globe continue to feel isolated at home amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, these New Zealand zoo animals have also been longing for more human interaction.

New Zealand is one of the many countries practicing social distancing and asking people to stay at home, which means their zoos are no longer open to the public.

According to The Guardian, animals at the Orana Wildlife Park in the South Island have started to notice the lack of people in the park — several species still attend their daily “meetings with the public” hoping to see visitors waiting to greet them.

The rhinos continue to be on time for their 3:15 p.m. belly rub appointments, and the giraffes still arrive to meet visitors at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

“People provide a great real-life stimulation for the animals, some of our very social animals are thinking something odd is up,” Orana zookeeper Nathan Hawke told the outlet.

Orana Wildlife Park
Credit: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto/Getty

To keep the animals both happy and on schedule, zookeepers have been showing up in place of the public during arranged meeting times.

Some other ways the zookeepers have been keeping the animals entertained include long walks for the llamas, spraying perfume to peak the interest of the lions and giving puzzle feeders to the keas (a bird species native to New Zealand).

“The kea and gorillas particularly seem to be missing people, they really enjoy seeing the public,” Hawke added.

“[Closing the zoo] is forcing us to think outside the square and go above and beyond for our precious animals. It’s about maintaining a new normal and filling the gap that the visitors would otherwise fill.”

At one Missouri zoo, visitors are still able to engage with the animals through a unique pen pal program.

Even though Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield is temporarily closed due to the current coronavirus pandemic, the facility is encouraging kids and adults alike to write letters to its animals.

Per KSMU.org, zoo spokeswoman, Joey Powell, shared that as many letters as possible will be read aloud to each animal recipient, and video of these readings will be posted to the zoo’s Facebook.

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