Detroit Zoo reportedly losing $2.5 million per month since closing due to coronavirus

click to enlarge Pickles the penguin doing whatever she damn well pleases. - SCREENGRAB/FACEBOOK
Screengrab/Facebook
Pickles the penguin doing whatever she damn well pleases.

Since closing in mid-March in compliance with coronavirus-related statewide stay-at-home orders, the Detroit Zoo reports it has lost $2.5 million per month. Though the zoo remains closed to the public, 24/7 care continues for the 2,500 animals it houses, amid staffing cuts and budget concerns.

Detroit Zoological Society CEO Ron Kagan told Fox 2 News that the financial loss is a direct result of closing to the 10,000 people that visit the zoo grounds each day.

Though the zoo will not likely be able to service 10,000 visitors anytime soon, Kagan says that they're working out procedures that will likely result in a more intimate zoo experience, estimating that they might be able to accommodate 1,000 people on the grounds per day with timed ticketing and hand-sanitizing stations.

The closure has also given Detroit Zoo staff an opportunity to take a look at animal behavior through cortisol levels, which, like humans, can fluctuate if stressed.

“We are trying to understand whether the animals are in some way behaving differently or experiencing things differently now that we don't have 10,000 people here every day,” Kagan says. “We want the animals to be animals, we want them to interact with each other — not with us, we're not a circus. We don't train our animals to be our friends; we need them to be them.”

Zoo staff has also ramped up precautionary measures when working with certain species after it was revealed that the Bronx Zoo's Malayan tiger was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month.

Since closing, the zoo has launched virtual educational programming, as well as live feeds of its penguin, otter, falcon, snow monkey, and prairie dog habitats. Immediately following the closure, the zoo allowed Pickles the penguin to explore the empty grounds, which would normally be out of reach.

For more information on Virtual Vitamin Z programming, visit detroitzoo.org.

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