Bay Area band serenades Oakland Zoo animals who miss visitors amid coronavirus pandemic

Thursday, July 2, 2020
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The closure of the Oakland Zoo has had a major economic impact, but a Bay Area bluegrass band, Dirty Cello, has stepped in to help give the animals some attention and entertainment during the pandemic.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Oakland Zoo had to shut their doors on March 17 and is caring for over 750 animals amid the novel coronavirus shutdown.

The closure has had a major economic impact on the zoo but a Bay Area bluegrass band, Dirty Cello, has stepped in to help the animals during the pandemic.

"It has been a huge toll financially," Adam Fink, Zoologic Manager at the Oakland Zoo. "The majority of our funds come from the gate. We don't have a gate right now so that has been a huge impact."

During the pandemic, the zoo has had to rely on donations and has had to defer payments to ensure that animals have not felt the financial impact. The zoo is relying on their marketing team to create content for Oakland Zoo's social media pages.

"It is really the only way that the zoo can really connect the animals to the public," said Fink. "It has been a lonelier place at the zoo. Most of the animals here do kind of miss the people. They are used to the attention and to the activity."

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Rebecca Roudman, band member of a Bay Area bluegrass band, Dirty Cello came across an article about zoo animals missing human interaction from visitors and decided to reach out to the Oakland Zoo to offer a free concert for the animals.

The zoo has had musical performances in the past but Dirty Cello would be the first band to play for the Oakland Zoo animals.

"When the band showed up we didn't know what to expect," said Fink. "We had them play for some animals that we thought might show a reaction."

The bluegrass band performed at seven different animal exhibits and all had varied reactions.

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"Dirty Cello helped these animals during the pandemic to provide a unique enrichment opportunity for the animals and an extra stimulus while the zoo was closed," said Fink. "We provide enrichment to all animals. This is something that the animals don't really get to experience. Novelty to their environment and having that novel sound is something that the animals really enjoyed. It was providing them extra stimulus while the zoo is closed."

"The otters were really friendly," said Roudman. "We played bluegrass for them and they started swimming and making bubbles. They seemed to really enjoy it. Then we saw the lemurs and they had a three-second attention span."

The Dirty Cello performs by reading the crowd and that didn't change for their four-legged audience.

"We took a guess on what kind of music they would like," said Roudman. "We were right on some and wrong on the others but I think we nailed it with the amazon parrot."

Brock the Amazon parrot had one of the most memorable reactions and took over as the lead singer.

"This would be a wonderful thing to do to get the word out that animals still need support and money to keep the zoo going," said Rebecca Roudman

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For more information or to donate visit the Oakland Zoo website.

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