The Oakland Zoo says its finances are looking grimmer as it hemorrhages $2 million per month during the continuing lockdown for zoos in the Bay Area.
We've been hearing from the Oakland and San Francisco Zoos about the significant expenses involved with feeding and caring for animals — who are not "workers" and therefore not covered by PPP funding. (And that has all been used anyway.)
Nik Dehejia, the zoo's executive vice president, told the Alameda County Board of Supervisors that the zoo is in major "financial distress" and "at risk of closure," and he was requesting that the zoo be reclassified as an outdoor museum in order that it may reopen in Phase 2 by appointment only. As the Chronicle reports, the zoo says it is now surviving on a $3 million reserve fund that is disappearing fast, after already laying off half of its staff.
Oakland Zoo President and CEO Dr. Joel Parrott tells NBC Bay Area that the zoo will only survive about three more months without any visitors.
The zoo has a reopening plan that includes keeping all restaurants and indoor exhibits closed, and only allowing in 2,500 visitors per day, down from 7,000. Masks and distancing would be required, and all guests would have to enter at specific appointment times.
"We've established that we can open safely and not be a source of transmission of COVID," Parrott says to ABC 7. "We can't continue to go on with no revenue and still stay in business."
As he adds to the Chronicle, "The science says we can do this safely."
Parrott also explained how some of the animals seem to notice that there are no more human guests in their midst. The chimpanzees, reportedly, seem to get more aggressive when they don't have the distraction of people walking by. But he tells the Chronicle that the giraffes don't seem to care either way.
While the San Francisco and Los Angeles zoos remain closed, zoos in San Diego and Sacramento have reopened with social distancing protocols. And despite Governor Gavin Newsom including zoos among the businesses that needed to re-close under orders he made for 19 counties (including Sacramento) on Wednesday, the Sacramento Zoo says it is staying open but just closing indoor facilities like the restaurant and gift shop.
Parrott tells NBC Bay Area that if the Oakland Zoo's nonprofit goes under due to the pandemic, the zoo will revert to being managed by the City of Oakland.
Below is a video of baby bison recently posted by the museum. Seven bison calves have been born during the lockdown, and most of these animals will be sent to Montana and given over the care of the Blackfeet Nation.
Related: Support the SF and Oakland Zoos As They Weather the Pandemic Shutdown