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Petting zoos open in Minsk

Visiting funny raccoons

Petting zoos open in Minsk

Three such zoos opened recently: in late August — in the Titan Shopping Centre (Dzerzhinsky Avenue); not long ago — in the Tivali Shopping Centre (Pritytsky Street); and in the Europe Trading Centre (Surganov Street).

Petting zoos enjoy popularity

It seems that urban petting zoos are all the rage in Belarus, with many delighting in having their photo taken with slightly exotic ‘pets’, such as raccoons. However, others are displeased, believing that the environment isn’t a healthy one for wild creatures.

It cannot be denied that spending time with animals is often the best therapy, especially for children who are unwell or handicapped.

Psychologists and doctors agree that children’s recovery from illness is often helped by spending time with animals; this is particularly true of creatures that don’t mind being stroked.

The idea is being promoted in Belarus, where the group Strana Yenotia (Raccoon Country) have been responsible for launching the project. They explain that several trial sessions were organised with disabled children initially, and an increasing number of applications are now being received from orphanages, inviting raccoons, coatis and other small animals to meet the children.

Recently the first group of 15, from Minsk’s boarding school #7 (which is home to some children with Down syndrome), had the chance to welcome the furry animals. Applications are expected from various charity organisations, including those helping children suffering from anxiety and mental illness. With this in mind, disabled children are able to visit such zoos free of charge, at any time.

Petting zoos enjoy popularity

Pet therapy has long been the norm at Minsk’s Zoo, where the farmyard allows petting of sheep, goats and chickens, and regularly welcomes seriously ill children from across the regions. Unlike the petting zoos at shopping centres, the animals are traditionally ‘domesticated’. Olga Kolmakova, the head of the zoo’s PR department, confirms that their farmyard is free of charge to visitors who are handicapped, as well as to those from orphanages and other organisations. Children are always accompanied by teachers, and are instructed on how to behave, in order to avoid startling th e animals.

Children from the SOS Children’s Village — who have experienced psychological trauma — often have the chance to pet animals. The head of the organisation, Sergey Rozhkov, feels certain that such therapy yields positive results. Further co-operation is planned, as he explains, telling us, “Our children suffer from inner stress but communication with animals calms them, making it easier for our children to cope, as our psychologists working with them always note.”

Minsk Zoo and other small petting zoos each offer their own particular flavour, and do not view each other as rivals. They welcome everyone.

By Olga Pasiyak
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