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Zoo Maintenance Is Costly, Making Shutdowns Painful

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A giraffe sticks its tongue out. (Photo by Mélody P on Unsplash)
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Some cultural institutions that closed during the pandemic have been able to reduce expenses by shutting down their facilities. But for zoos, the cost of caring for wild animals continues, even without visitors.

Allen Monroe, president and CEO of the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in the Coachella Valley, said that in order to afford care for its 500 animals, the zoo was forced to lay off two-thirds of its employees.

“Even with a minimum amount of staff, our daily operation costs $20,000 a day,” he said. “And so that builds a very big hole we have to dig ourselves out of financially.”

Monroe said community donations and partial reopenings have helped to keep a bare-bones animal care crew in place. They have also opened more outdoor attractions, including its carousel.

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“We use an electrostatic sprayer between each of the operations in the carousel to make sure that all those nooks and crannies get disinfected,” he said.

And visitors have the chance to feed a giraffe again.