Coronavirus Impact: Oakland Zoo tries to stay afloat while caring for, feeding animals with zero ticket revenue

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A whistle screeches followed shortly by the sound of vegetables plopping into a pool in the Oakland Zoo's Grizzly Bear Exhibit.

It's "enrichment activity time," otherwise known as feeding them snacks while they frolic in the pool to keep them physically and mentally engaged, according to Zoo President, Dr. Joel Parrot.

"Bears are so smart we want to keep them really active and keep their interest in why they get up in the morning and go give them something to do," he says.

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Parrott says that was easier before the Oakland Zoo had to close and send 90 percent of its workers home because of the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders.

What's left is an eerie sight of zero visitors and very little sound. Zoo workers were paid in full through March, but in April that will change.

"We're also going to be doing a cutback in hours and furloughs for the rest of the staff so that we can get through the summer," Parrott says.



The animals still have to eat, and there must still be veterinarians on staff to care for them. It's hard to tell if many of the animals miss crowds of humans visiting daily.

But, a pair of gibbons, members of the ape family swinging through the trees at their exhibit, are an exception.

We asked Parrott, "What do they do when there are no visitors?"

"I think they're probably kind of bored," he replied.

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As are many people stuck at home. That's why the zoo plans to unveil a platform on their website next week that will feature individual exhibits, and allow folks at home to ask questions of zookeepers

For the remainder of the spring, however, it's just trying to stay afloat until they're allowed to reopen.

In the meantime, the zoo is asking for your financial help. Information on how to make a donation can be found on their website, Oaklandzoo.org.

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