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New Year’s Eve pyrotechnics frenzy stressful to animals

Dutch giraffes calmed by pop

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMERSFOORT, the Netherlands - Dutch zookeepers have found an unorthodox solution to calm down skittish giraffes spooked by the sound of thousands of firecrackers going off at New Year Eve. The zoos play pop music to keep the giraffes at ease.

The Amersfoort Zoo tried a number of things over the years, to keep the giraffes from getting frightened by fireworks. It found that pop music works best to muffle the effect of explosions to the non-startling level of background noise, the zoo’s Josien van Eijk said.

The giraffes who live in an enclosure at the 18-hectare (45-acre) zoo were the only ones of the park's around 130 animals badly affected by the noise of firecrackers.

Staff tunes into the country’s popular Radio 2, so the animals get used to its Top 2000 hits New Year’s Eve countdown. As December 31 approaches, they just turn the volume of the music up a bit. The giraffes did not indicate a specific liking for any particular genre of pop.

Anti-stress drugs

The Dutch celebrate the New Year by forking out vast amounts of money on fireworks in a pyrotechnics frenzy that turns some city streets into virtual battlefields. Many pet owners mix anti-stress drugs into the food they give their animals to keep them from getting spooked. The effect of firecrackers on pets was recently raised in the Second Chamber of Parliament by the two-seat faction of the Party of Animals which opposes the widespread sale of fireworks products.

During the past decade, authorities already restricted sales to a three-day sale (December 29-31) to obtain a maximum of “only” 10 kilograms of fireworks per person. That measure followed an explosion at a fireworks warehouse in a residential area of Enschede in 2000, which claimed the life of 22 people.