PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Zoo is one of many places left trying to figure out a plan for what reopening will look like once COVID-19 restrictions start to ease in the state.
KGW News at Sunrise checked in with Zoo Director Dr. Don Moore for SunriseEXTRA, the show’s live streaming after-show. .
He said they’re working with Multnomah County health authorities and Governor Kate Brown’s office. There’s still no date in place for reopening, but when it does, things may work differently.
“We’re more like a park-like space with trails. We would keep all of our buildings closed and people would move through in family groups,” he said. “We have over one mile of trails and we can make them one way, and we can allow people to move through in a safe way.”
He says they would probably just keep outdoor areas, but some indoor exhibits like the Penguinarium have enough room where they could make that a one way through building.
The zoo has been closed to the public since March 17 and Dr. Moore says they’ve since had to lay off over 300 people. He described the atmosphere at the zoo with no people as interesting, saying it’s a “quiet day every day.”
He says the animal care team has stayed intact and they’ve been busy keeping the animals entertained.
“The keepers are providing a lot of enrichment for them to keep them from being bored because one of the things that they do is people watch when we’re open, and they can’t people watch right now,” he says.
The staff left is using that downtime to feature (adorable) videos of the animals online, like that one that recently went viral showing Takoda the bear splashing around in a tub.
So far, the video has gotten more than a million views on the zoo’s Facebook page alone and the zoo is using that fame to educate people about the animals.
“Those people, when they go and see Takoda on our website, they also get linked to educational activities,” Dr. Moore said. “That’s one of the reasons that we exist, to educate the public and inspire them to conserve these beautiful species.”
With no visitors now for nearly two months, the Oregon Zoo Foundation is asking for the public for help raising money for an emergency recovery fund. The foundation is a nonprofit support arm for the zoo, and it’s hoping to raise $1 million through donations.
Dr. Moore says the zoo has $6 million in reserve funds that will only last through September if they have to stay closed for that long because 60% of its revenue comes from things like gate admissions, concessions, gift shop sales, concerts and camps.
“We had built up reserves over the last four years in case of a small emergency, a tornado or an earthquake or something, but nothing this big.”
Food for the animals is a big chunk of their expenses, second only to personnel. The biggest animal food expense is shellfish, oysters and clams to feed to the otters and seals.
Dr. Moore says they hope to see everyone back soon.
“What I miss right now is seeing the looks of awe and wonder in kids' faces when they see their favorite animal.”
You can watch the full conversation on SunriseExtra with Dr. Moore below
SunriseExtra airs every weekday at 7 a.m. on KGW's Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages.