Since it first opened in 1910, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco has never closed its doors. During the outbreak of Spanish Flu at the beginning of the 19th century, and even during the Second World War, visitors were able to walk the museum’s grand halls. This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a worthy exception. Despite its closure, the institution is still operational, looking after both the animal and plant life it houses.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco to close in March, but certain staff are still working at this mythical establishment which looks out over the Mediterranean. And with good reason: given the public’s absence, enclosure keepers can care for its marine tenants without raising health concerns for staff.
Looking after the museum’s inhabitants
Olivier Brunel, operations manager for the museum’s aquariums, ensured that the animals had not been forgotten. “Our work hasn’t changed. Since we take care of animals, whether the museum is open or not, we have to be there. However, we have had to reorganise our working hours, and of course, we follow social distancing measures. Most of our time is taken up by monitoring supplies so that we don’t suffer any delivery or stock problems. For example, at the beginning of lockdown, we ordered a huge large quantity of oxygen, necessary for the aquariums, and food.”
No let-up for aquarium carers
“The typical day now takes a totally different shape,” confirms Brunel. “In the morning, we go around the pools. We check that there are no unexpected problems, that the fish are fine, we clean the windows, clean the sand and prepare food for the smaller species. We also try to use our free time to work on growing the coral. We take cuttings so that the tanks will be even more stunning when we reopen. But with a smaller team, this free time is rare.”
Field day at the museum
Given the new situation, the aquarium teams have noted a behavioural change in the animals. While Brunel is still coming to terms with the new closed-off nature of the museum, he admits it has been an altogether different experience. “Due to the absence of noise and visitors, we can see some fish that were, until now, a little shy. For example, we were able to observe a grouper that usually never shows up. And then we can spend more time watching each tank. As well as the real joy this has given us, it is also a way for us to understand marine ecosystems better.”
It is safe to say that the species at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco are well-looked after, perhaps better than ever. Museums in Monaco are set to reopen at the beginning of June, depending on how the situation evolves.