PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Zoo is asking the public to lend a hand as it struggles with financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The zoo closed its doors March 17 following an order from Gov. Kate Brown that residents should avoid large gatherings as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
But Oregon Zoo Director Don Moore said closing the zoo has meant no money coming in from admissions, events and sales. The zoo is normally open 364 days each year.
“We planned for the future,” Moore said Thursday, April 23, in a written statement. “We had reserves in place — but nobody was prepared for this level of catastrophe. In an instant, we lost 60% of our revenue.”
Now, the zoo’s fundraising arm, the Oregon Zoo Foundation, is asking the public to help.
The foundation hopes to raise $1 million from local donors to help support the zoo’s operations during the closure.
Donations can be made online at oregonzoo.org/donate.
The zoo is run by Metro, the Portland regional government, which announced in March it would lay off 40% of its workforce due to lost revenue. Metro operates the Oregon Zoo, the Oregon Convention Center, the Portland Expo Center, and several performing arts centers.
While the gates may be closed to the public, staff at the state’s largest zoo are on site 24 hours a day caring for its roughly 2,500 animals.
Animal keepers at the zoo have taken special care when tending to the animals. Keepers wear protective equipment when around the zoo’s primates, but that protocol has been extended to all animals after several cats at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Animal welfare remains our top priority, and we’re working around the clock to make sure the animals in our care 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.”
Zoos nationwide are feeling a tight squeeze in funding as closures have stretched more than a month. The Oakland Zoo this month launched a subscription-based Facebook feed, offering viewers streaming videos of animals and staff behind the scenes, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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