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Bay Area Zoos Struggling To Feed Animals, Pay Workers Due To COVID-19 Closures

OAKLAND (KPIX) - After shutting down for months during the COVID-19 stay at home order, Bay Area zoos are now in financial dire straits and forced to dip into their dwindling reserves to feed and care for their animals and pay employees.

"Our reserves have been keeping us afloat. But at some point, that's going to run out," says Dr. Joel Parrot, the president of the Oakland Zoo.

Dr. Parrot says federal money from the Payroll Protection Program has helped offset some of the losses from visitors and admissions. But he says being allowed to reopen is critical to the zoo's long-term financial well-being.

Parrott says the zoo has trimmed its monthly budget to roughly $1.3 a month for the care and feeding of its 750 animals.

"They're our highest priority. They're dependent on us to make sure that they're well taken care of and we can't back off tha,t at all," he says.

The bleak financial outlook is not much better across the bay. The San Francisco Zoo says they're spending about $30,000 a day or a roughly $1 million a month to care and feed their animals. The zoo relies heavily on visitors and admissions for 70 percent of its operating budget.

Even once they're allowed to reopen, zoos say they won't be completely out of the woods. The Oakland Zoo is planning to cut capacity and therefore revenue to allow social distancing.

"We're going to have limited time tickets. So, if we would normally have 5,000 people on a normal weekend day, we have 2,500 now," says Dr. Parrott.

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