Did you ever wonder what would happen if wild animals broke into zoos? Could they stay, or must they be returned to the wild? Let’s find out.
It really depends on what kind of animal breaks into the zoo. When a wild raccoon broke into a zoo in Germany, the zookeepers had to keep him. He was considered an invasive species and was a threat to other animals and plants.
What Are Raccoons?
The raccoon is the largest of the procyonid family. They weigh about 5 to 26 kilograms and are covered in a gray coat with a dense underfur that helps them with the extreme cold.
These creatures have three distinct features; highly dexterous front paws, a ringed tail, and facial masks.
They are most noted for their intelligence. A couple of studies showed that raccoons can have an excellent memory and can accomplish specific tasks.
Raccoons are nocturnal and omnivorous. They generally consume invertebrates and plants, but when there is a scarcity, especially during wintertime, they tend to scavenge for food from human rubbish.
While they prefer to stay in mixed forests, they also extend to marshes and coastal spaces. Later on, due to different factors, they have migrated to urban areas (Source: PBS)
Are Raccoons Invasive?
Raccoons are native to North America. While they are commonly found there, they are considered invasive in Europe. As a result, the European Union enlisted its species in the Invasive Alien Species of Union List in 2016.
Being on this list means that raccoons cannot be imported, bred, transported, or intentionally released into the wild within the European Union because of their species’ threat to the native inhabitants of their region. In fact, their presence threatens the European ecosystem. This is precisely why the authorities felt it was essential to control their spread. (Source: Live Science)
Do Raccoons Transmit Diseases to Humans?
In North America, Raccoons are known to carry a number of infectious diseases in the form of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Most of these microorganisms are zoonotic. This means it can be transmitted to humans as well.
One of the most common diseases they easily transmit to humans is Leptospirosis. This bacterial disease occurs due to urine contamination with the water or food we may consume.
Other diseases include:
- Canine Distemper
Because of these diseases, raccoons have been deemed pests in urban areas. It is always best to be wary around them. (Source: Purdue Newsletter)
What Happened When a Wild Raccoon Broke in a Zoo?
Back in 2019, a wild raccoon broke into the Heidelberg Zoo in Germany, and because of the law imposed by the European Union, the zookeepers had no choice but to keep the uninvited guest.
The local newspaper reported that the zoo staff found the wild raccoon in the zoo’s raccoon enclosure. He was getting along fine with the other seven residents, and they decided to let him stay. He was named Fred and has become a permanent addition to their exhibit. (Source: HuffPost)