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11-Year-Old Girl Plays Live Music For 'Lonely' Zoo Animals As Visitor Numbers Plummet During Pandemic

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - As Thailand grapples with a third wave of coronavirus, visitors to the Khao Kheow Open Zoo have become far and few. But an 11-year-old musician dressed in an alligator suit is trying to fill the void.

Wearing a bright green alligator costume, Seenlada Supat takes an electronic keyboard to the zoo and plays Thai popular songs to the ring-tailed lemurs, meerkats, hippos, zebras and a range of other animals.

"I'm playing music to soothe the animals to help them feel relaxed and accompany them so that they are not too lonely," she tells Reuters.

The performances also give her a chance to practice before a live audience and help her overcome her stage fright.

The zoo has seen visitors fall by about 70 percent during the COVID-19 outbreak. The animals were used to people visiting them but "then suddenly, that was all gone," says zoo director Tawin Rattanawongsawat.

"After the volunteer students came over to play music, we noticed that the animals were reacting towards that, they became curious while others appear to be enjoying the music," he recalls.

The animals at the zoo, located southeast of Bangkok, react in different ways. The lemurs hop onto her instrument and even press buttons. They ride around on the back of her alligator costume. Others seem to enjoy listening and sometimes sway to the music.

"I wanted them to be involved with me while I'm playing music. I don't mind [when they jump on the keyboard]," she says. "It is as if they are playing music with me, too."

Supat is part of a volunteer group that visits the zoo to spread cheer among the lonely animals. The zoo is in discussions to make the live music shows a weekly event.

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