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South Coast Zoo Hit By Double Whammy; Closure And Threat To Some Animals And Staff By Coronavirus

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Coronavirus is impacting us in many different ways.  For a South Coast zoo, it’s causing two problems.  The zoo’s closure is causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.  And, the virus is threatening the zoo’s staff as well as some of its animals.

The Santa Barbara Zoo has been closed since March 17th by the coronavirus threat.  With more than 90% of its revenue coming from visitors, the situation has led to layoffs.

The zoo normally has more than 230 part and full time employees, but has temporarily reduced its staff to less than 100.  Zoo President/CEO Rich Block says it still costs more than $600,000 a month to take care of the zoo's hundreds of animals.

The Zoo's Vice President for Animal Care and Health, Dr. Julie Barnes, says with some of the mammals at risk for cornavirus, they have implemented social distancing with at-risk animals, as well as the use of personal protective gear by zoo staff members.

Barnes says they've been aware of the potential threat from coronavirus to big cats and some other animals for some time, because of cases at other zoos around the world.  The zoo implemented safety precautions even before it became an issue in the United States, when a big cat at the Bronx Zoo was diagnosed with the virus.

Barnes says no staff members or animals have been diagnosed with the virus at the zoo.