OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — After a 121-day closure, the Oakland Zoo reopened to the public for the first time on Wednesday.
Children gleefully ran to find their favorite animals as smiling zoo staffers welcomed them back. Their parents had all reserved tickets ahead of time through OaklandZoo.org for a designated time slot. Visitors were spaced out to ensure proper social distancing, masks were required for anyone older than 3-years-old, and groups were limited to family members who live within the same household.
Oakland Zoo President and CEO Dr. Joel Parrott said the families who showed up Wednesday were the some of the Bay Area residents who had missed the zoo the most. “We are just thrilled to have them back. We’ve learned how important the zoo is to them. But we’ve also learned how important they are to us.”
The Oakland Zoo had been closed since March. Recent approval from Alameda County health officials gave a green light that the zoo needed to reopen its gates.
“They helped us put together a policy here at the zoo to make sure anyone who visits does not contract the virus,” Parrott said.
Only one-third of the normal number of visitors are allowed in, and anyone who wants to visit the zoo must pre-reserve a ticket for a specific day and time.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Oakland Zoo was already designed to be a mostly outdoor, walking facility. So while all indoor exhibits remain closed, visitors can still see the majority of the zoo’s hundreds of animals.
“Providing a safe and fun outdoor experience for our visitors` return has been the focus during this closure, and we`re confident that we’ve gone above and beyond to protect the health and safety of every guest, staff member and animal,” Parrott said.
There are new animals for visitors to see, including “Kijiji” the giraffe, “Aluna” the newborn Hamadryas baboon, and seven American buffalo calves.
With admissions now limited to one-third of normal capacity, revenue will fall short of meeting the zoo’s operating costs of $2 million monthly.
“The closure has been difficult for us, and we’re hopeful that the coming months will help restore the zoo’s financial health to what it was before the closure. We thank our donors and supporters out there for helping us through this challenging time,” Nik Dehejia, CFO & Executive Vice President of Oakland Zoo.
For more details on zoo’s reopening, including annual membership and information for guests planning their next visit, go to oaklandzoo.org/reopening