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COVID-19 Reopening: Cash-Strapped Oakland Zoo Set to Reopen Next Week

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- After being closed for four months, the Oakland Zoo will reopen next week.

Along with some new attractions, like a two-year-old giraffe named Kijiji that was brought in from Kansas, the zoo will look a little different overall after implementing health and safety protocols.

The sound of macaws echoed throughout the empty zoo Thursday but, in just days, visitors will return and some animals almost seem to be looking forward to it. We asked one chimpanzee if he was excited to see visitors and he nodded his head.

The park worked with the Alameda County health department to be able to assure returning visitors.

"To come to the zoo will be a safe venture for families and kids," Dr. Joel Parrott, president of Oakland Zoo, said.

Social distance markers are on the ground in areas by the ticket booth and the entrance to the gondola ride, which will also reopen. Hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the park and masks will be required for guests age 3 and older.

The zoo has also drastically cut its occupancy limit.

"Our peak attendance is usually about 7,000 to 8,000 people in a day but we're going to reduce that down to 2,500 and then have them come throughout the day. That way they can social distance and it doesn't get overcrowded," Dr. Parrott said.

While health and safety measures have been put into place to protect the visitors, barriers are also placed to protect the COVID-19 vulnerable animals like the chimpanzees. Also because of coronavirus, all the indoor exhibits, restaurants and the amusement park will remain closed, including the train to see the emus and wallabies.

Oakland Zoo president Joel Parrott hopes everything will soon be open to the public but, for now, it's going to make a big difference to have visitors back again.

"We were only living on our reserves in this last month and we were destined to run out," Dr. Parrott said.

The Oakland Zoo is the last of the large zoos in California to open. With the decreased capacity, it will still need to lean on donors to cover the $2 million per month operating cost.

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