Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus Cooking Families Core values App Listen Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
story.lead_photo.caption A worker watches over giraffes during a feeding time last month at the Oakland Zoo in California. More photos at arkansasonline. com/82zoos/.
(AP/Ben Margot)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Since the coronavirus pandemic began keeping visitors at home, the jaguars and chimpanzees at the Oakland Zoo have been venturing out to areas of their exhibits they usually avoid.

The bears and petting pigs are seeking more attention from zookeepers.

Some things, however, haven't changed. The $55,000 in daily animal food costs have put the nearly 100-year-old zoo in a dire financial situation.

"We have already lost the bulk of our summer revenue and are living off whatever reserves we have left, but they are going to run out at some point," said Joel Parrott, president of the Oakland Zoo, home to 750 large animals.

The zoo and hundreds of others across the country were ordered to close in March -- the start of the busiest season for most animal parks -- forcing administrators to deal with the pandemic's financial impact through layoffs and pay cuts. Even as they reopen, zoos and aquariums from Alaska to Florida are seeing few visitors, prompting administrators to plead for support from their communities to avoid permanent closure.

The Oakland Zoo has laid off more than 100 employees, primarily those who work with guests. Another 200 who care for animals and provide veterinary services and safety for the public and animals are still working and represent part of the zoo's $1.2 million a month in costs, Parrott said.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

California officials this month allowed the zoo to reopen its outdoor areas Wednesday, but the animal park still faces a big challenge. Guests provide more than 90% of revenue through tickets, concessions, rides, gifts and parties. But attendance and revenue in Oakland -- and around the country -- are falling short.

"Members are hitting 20% to 50% of their normal revenue targets," said Dan Ashe, president of the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

About 75% of the 220 U.S. zoos and aquariums represented by the association have reopened, but without additional assistance, they're facing "very difficult decisions about further furloughs or layoffs and then ultimately about their survival," Ashe said. Six in 10 members applied for assistance from the federal government's coronavirus relief package, but that support runs out this month.

Dino Ferri, president of the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Garden, said he wakes up at night trying to figure out how he will make up the $1.5 million his park lost during its two-month closure that ended in May. Normally those are the busiest months for the zoo, which depends on visitors for 80% of its revenue.

The Sanford, Fla., zoo is home to 350 animals and usually is visited by 40,000 school kids each year. With schools closed, major events canceled and few tourists, the zoo is struggling to bring in even half of the $450,000 a month it needs to keep the park running, Ferri said.

The park is now allowed to open to as many as 1,000 people at a time and Ferri had hoped for a busy summer, but only about 350 visitors a day are showing up.

Gallery: Zoos, aquariums struggle in pandemic

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/82zoos/]

"People are afraid," Ferri said. "We expected a boom from people who are not traveling and are doing staycations, but the uptick in cases in the state of Florida and all the stuff on the news are keeping people at home."

As a result, he has laid off 40% of the staff, cut leadership team salaries, including his own, and launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million by December to restore the zoo's operating budget to pre-virus levels.

Information for this article was contributed by Terry Chea of The Associated Press.

A zookeeper feeds an elephant an enrichment treat at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif., on April 14, 2020. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A zookeeper feeds an elephant an enrichment treat at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif., on April 14, 2020. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A bear swims in his habitat at the Oakland Zoo on July 2, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A bear swims in his habitat at the Oakland Zoo on July 2, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A visitor passes an Alaska SeaLife Center aquarium on July 6, 2020, in Seward, Alaska. Three-quarters of past visitors to the Alaska SeaLife Center, an aquarium and research center that runs Alaska's only marine mammal rescue program, have been tourists who arrive by plane or cruise ship. With most cruises canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are few people to see the octopus, and the site's rare Steller sea lions. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
A visitor passes an Alaska SeaLife Center aquarium on July 6, 2020, in Seward, Alaska. Three-quarters of past visitors to the Alaska SeaLife Center, an aquarium and research center that runs Alaska's only marine mammal rescue program, have been tourists who arrive by plane or cruise ship. With most cruises canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are few people to see the octopus, and the site's rare Steller sea lions. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Dr. Joel Parrott, President and CEO of the Oakland Zoo, talks about the struggles the zoo has faced in the coronavirus threat during an interview in Oakland, Calif., on April 14, 2020. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. "We have already lost the bulk of our summer revenue and are living off whatever reserves we have left, but they are going to run out at some point," said Parrott. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Dr. Joel Parrott, President and CEO of the Oakland Zoo, talks about the struggles the zoo has faced in the coronavirus threat during an interview in Oakland, Calif., on April 14, 2020. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. "We have already lost the bulk of our summer revenue and are living off whatever reserves we have left, but they are going to run out at some point," said Parrott. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Zookeepers perform a routine examination of flamingos at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif., on April 14, 2020. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Zookeepers perform a routine examination of flamingos at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif., on April 14, 2020. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Zoo worker Alyssa Watt feeds camels at the Oakland Zoo, July 2, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Zoo worker Alyssa Watt feeds camels at the Oakland Zoo, July 2, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A chimpanzee holds an enrichment treat at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif., on April 14, 2020. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A chimpanzee holds an enrichment treat at the Oakland Zoo in Oakland, Calif., on April 14, 2020. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A masked zoo worker watches over giraffes at feeding time at the Oakland Zoo on July 2, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A masked zoo worker watches over giraffes at feeding time at the Oakland Zoo on July 2, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A chimpanzee peers out of enclosure behind a sign displaying the species is vulnerable to Covid-19 at the Oakland Zoo on July 2, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A chimpanzee peers out of enclosure behind a sign displaying the species is vulnerable to Covid-19 at the Oakland Zoo on July 2, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet animals still need expensive care and food, meaning the closures that began in March, the start of the busiest season for most animal parks, have left many of the facilities in dire financial straits. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT