Oakland Zoo at risk of closing for good due to COVID-19 pandemic

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Normally it is quite busy during the summer months, but now after being closed since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Oakland Zoo is at risk of closing for good. 

The zoo says if it’s not given the okay to reopen sometime this month, it will not be able to survive.

The Oakland Zoo is neighborly, it’s unique, and unfortunately, this pandemic has hit them hard.

The zoo already laid off all part-time workers back in March and on Wednesday another 10% of the workforce was cut while other employees deal with significant pay cuts.

The zoo is now hoping the governor will give them the okay to reopen with new safety measures in place. 

“When you run out of money, you run out of money,” Dr. Joel Parrott said.

Drastic budget cuts and millions in revenue losses have left the Oakland Zoo without much to work with.

President and CEO Dr. Joel Parrott says as of July 1, the zoo down to it’s last three million dollars in emergency reserve funding. 

“What we’re really asking for is the governor to authorize the zoo to open. We’re an outdoor facility, we want to be categorized with outdoor museums which are already approved,” Parrott said.

The Oakland Zoo is currently classified as a Stage 3 business but Parrott says they’re working with the mayor, hoping she can make contact with the governor to get the approval as an outdoor museum instead, which would allow it to reopen and hopefully generate some revenue.

“If we can provide the social distancing, the masks, we’re outdoors, we can provide a healthy outdoor environment,” Parrott said.

The zoo received a PPP Loan in mid-April but those funds have since run out forcing them to either lay off and furlough workers or drastically cut employee pay. 

The zoo did create a virtual program to connect with the community during the pandemic but Parrott says it isn’t enough

“Going forward we won’t be able to achieve it by philanthropy alone, we’ve raised about 400K since all this started but our operating expenses are one million dollars a month,” Parrott said.

Leaving them with just about three months to survive, the zoo is currently operated by a nonprofit organization.

If it does run out of funds, those operations would be taken over by the Oakland Parks Department which as you can see from this report, would be pretty costly for the city to take on.

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