Oregon Zoo seeks $1M in relief funds amid coronavirus crisis


Zoo director says 'future uncertain'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Zoo needs your help. Since it closed last month, it’s lost more than 50% of its revenue. The zoo needs relief funds totaling $1 million to continue operating due to being shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The zoo has lost its ability to generate revenue through admissions, events, and sales since closing on March 17, Zoo Director Dr. Don Moore said in a statement.

“We planned for the future. We had reserves in place — but nobody was prepared for this level of catastrophe. In an instant, we lost 60% of our revenue,” he said.

The nonprofit fundraising arm of the zoo, The Oregon Zoo Foundation, is seeking emergency donations in response. They’ve created an Emergency Recovery Fund to raise $1 million to help support zoo operations during the closure. Contributions to the fund can be made at oregonzoo.org/donate.

“Target is $1 million dollars, it can be more, it can be less and it’s designed to get us through the point we can reopen in a way we can bring back some revenues and help us continue to operate the zoo in a robust way,” said Moore.

During the crisis, they’ve had to cut back on camps, and events, and even had to lay off some staff. Moore acknowledged the future is uncertain for the zoo, though he praised the animal care team at the facility for not letting COVID-19 slow down their work.

“We are sad we are missing staff at this point, but we cat back to the bone and the top priority is animal welfares, so no keepers lost their jobs and they are all at work, along with our veterinary staff, taking great care of our animals,” said Moore.

Animal welfare remains the zoo’s top priority, with caretakers working around the clock to ensure the animals have everything they need, said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo’s animal care programs.

“We can get through this crisis, but only with the support of our community,” he said. “We are the last refuge for these endangered species that we have, from butterflies to elephants.”

And while we can’t go to the zoo and see the animals in person, they need our support now, more than ever.

“I would like to say to all our visitors and supporters out there: We miss you terribly,” said Moore. “We hope to see you back as soon as it’s absolutely, safely possible.

Though the U.S. Senate passed a $450 billion coronavirus relief bill earlier this week designed to help small businesses, the bill does not cover state and local governments whose revenues are plummeting, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said in an interview with KOIN 6 News earlier this week. The Oregon Zoo operates under regional government Metro’s enterprise fund.

The Oregon Zoo is home to around 2,500 animals representing more than 200 species and is one of the oldest zoos in the U.S., having first opened in 1888. The zoo also works toward animal conservation through field research, wildlife education and animal welfare science.

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