Oakland Zoo reopens: Animals, humans reunite amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic

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ByAmy Hollyfield KGO logo
Monday, July 27, 2020
Oakland Zoo reopens: Animals, humans reunite
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The Oakland Zoo opened Monday morning for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown started in March. Monday and Tuesday's openings are reserved for members only and the general public is welcome on Wednesday. Tickets and reservations are required.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Oakland Zoo opened Monday morning for the first time since the lockdown started back in March. Visitors were thrilled to be back.

"It's really exciting to be here and there's not a lot of people here so we feel safe and I think that's the most important part," said Jeannine Whittaker of San Leandro, who brought her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

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The zoo is limiting the number of visitors to help people stay six feet apart. Visitors are required to buy their ticket online for a certain day and time.

"We are staggering two to 300 an hour. We are doing a maximum capacity of 2,500 a day. This zoo can see more than 7,000 people so we are greatly limiting it so we can do this right," said zoo Executive Vice President Nik Dehejia.

Indoor exhibits, playgrounds and rides are closed because of the pandemic. Restaurants are not offering seated service but visitors can take their food in a to-go box and find a place in the park to sit.

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The shutdown hurt the zoo so much financially, it was threatening to close for good. Fundraising has kept the zoo afloat, including a hugely successful event Saturday night.

"90% of our revenue comes when we open the doors. So we have moved past the survival phase, we are into recovery. Recovery is going to take quite some time. We did have an incredible fundraiser-virtual on Saturday night. The community has been incredible. Half a million dollars came as an anonymous gift. And we were able to raise another half million," Dehejia said.

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"It's nice for the kids. There is so much for them to see and do here. It is nice they were able to reopen. We know they have been struggling a little bit so we are happy to be here," Whittaker said.

Monday and Tuesday is for members only. The zoo opens to the general public on Wednesday. Walk-ins are not welcome, a reservation and pre-purchased ticket is required.