Since Your Gaze Is Gone

Annalaura Cattelan



The workers’ cars run undisturbed among the paths of Natura Viva Park usually crowded with families. The keepers have never stopped looking after the animals and the only sounds heard on a hot sunny day of mid-April, perfect day for school trips, are those of their calls. The atmosphere is that of a Eden’s garden.

Only cleaners and animal care workers move through the corridors of the Genoa Aquarium, like fleeting apparitions. They are silently working for a facility in constant need of maintenance. The lights in the non-operational sectors are turned off, we grope almost in the dark, barely illuminated by the only light coming from the tubs. It seems to walk through the dungeons of a castle under the sea. Fishes gasp, indifferent to our presence. Only the dolphins seem to notice the new figures beyond the glass and, if you pay attention, you can even hear their playful whistles.

Both animals and workers, not only from these parks, but all over the world, have become accustomed to these scenarios.

To follow the government directives, Italian wildlife parks were forced to close to the public for many months, despite the precautions taken in order to contain the spread of Covid-19. Closing a wildlife park means taking away its revenue, which had not only to pay its employees, but also to feed its animals.

“The animals have never lacked anything, their care has always been pursued with usual high standards. Actually, veterinary checks have been increased to keep their health under control. Someone might think that animals miss visitors or suffer from loneliness. The truth is yes, they were surprised from the absence of visitors because these are a stimulus, at least for the more “social” animals. However, This event, has certainly not traumatized or saddened the animals but, we can say that it has rather relaxed them. Now even the most timid specimens are more willing to approach if they see someone unknown: they are intrigued by this new presence”.

This is exactly what every keeper repeats when people ask them information about the animals. Reassuring words, despite the period of closure has experienced large decline in visitors and, therefore, in economic income. Advance ticket sales, long distance animal adoptions and, for those who had the opportunity, donations, were the ways they tried to make up for these losses.

The activity of wildlife parks has never stopped, not only the care of their animals, but also their social activity. In fact, they try to maintain their didactic function (through remote guided tours or informative videos on the animals present in their parks) and to continue the scientific and university research projects they collaborate with.

“Since Your Gaze is Gone” is a documentary work made during the closure of wildlife parks caused by the government measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. This work tries to emphasize the incredible absence of the visitor in contrast with the constant presence of workers and animals of the parks. Animals that have remained in their place, waiting for the gaze of a spectator who is gone.

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  • 01 - A specimen of macaw parrot at Parco Natura Viva (Bussolengo, VR)

  • 02 - Despite the period of closure, the visitors' spaces of the Genoa Aquarium are kept clean for not being unprepared in case of a sudden reopening.

  • 03 - The entrance to the aquarium of Genoa is deserted, while, all around, the Porto Antico area regains the normal liveliness of a sunny April afternoon.

  • 04 - In Parco Natura Viva Safari's streets, usually there are columns of cars from which people admire the animals in semi-freedom. During this period, only the tiny parked cars of the keepers can be seen. (Bussolengo, VR)

  • 05 - A keeper is arranging enrichments for the chimpanzees. The "enrichments" are objects created to stimulate animals: by hiding food in handkerchiefs, providing them with clothes, straw or scattering peanuts and seeds in their ward, they are stimulated to actively search for food and to manifest natural behaviors. This type of activity is carried out by the keepers for the animals everyday, even during closure periods. (Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, VR)

  • 06 - White pelican in the carp pond. (Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, VR)

  • 07 - Part of the fence surrounding the sunlit park. (Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, VR)

  • 08 - One of the Siberian tiger cubs born in the park in June 2020 is sleeping peacefully by the glass. In a normal situation people would flock to see the tiger so closely, a not as usual event. The departments of Natura Viva park are structured in a way to allow the animals to easily escape the observer's gaze, since only one side out of four offers points of view on their life. (Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, VR)

  • 09 - The red Ibises have taken over the paths of the tropical greenhouse attached to the Genoa Aquarium.

  • 10 - Even if in a closed park, with no observers, the dolphins are trained six times a day, in conjunction with meal times. (Aquarium of Genoa)

  • 11 - Erika, keeper in charge of the dolphin tank, watches Goccia swim calmly (Aquarium of Genoa)

  • 12 - Grafting of a coral through talea. In 2020 the Genoa Aquarium and the Bicocca University of Milan started a twinning project with the Maldivian "Marhe Center". Last year, the doctoral students did not have the opportunity to travel abroad to continue their studies, so they transferred their research there. What they are trying to understand is how to bring the coral reproduction from their laboratory to the seas, in order to repopulate the barrier Reef.

  • 13 - Chilean flamingo's feathers. (Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, VR)

  • 14 - Martina, one of Zoom's keepers, watches the 3 Amur tiger brothers strolling around their ward in the late afternoon (Zoom, Cumiana, TO)

  • 15 - The Chilean flamingos' flock present at the entrance to the Natura Viva Park. Similar to the pink flamingo, but smaller and with a more intense coloration, they are close to the threat of extinction. (Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, VR)

  • 16 - One-way path created to prevent crowds in front of the white lion observatory. (Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, VR)

  • 17 - Male peacock tail feathers during the mating season. It is easy to find free peacocks in zoos.(Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, VR)

  • 10 - Jellyish of the Genoa Aquarium.

  • 19 - One of the dolphin trainers takes a lunch break overlooking the tank of her favorite animal. (Aquarium of Genoa)

  • 20 - Feather in the pond in the Zoom's Madagascar area (Cuminana, TO)