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Zoo in Atascadero taking small steps toward reopening, plans to reduce capacity

Posted at 11:04 AM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 14:04:27-04

Though California Zoos recently received the green light reopen next week, the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero will not be opening up right away.

Since it closed March 18 due to COVID-19, the Charles Paddock Zoo has been missing one of its usual species: humans.

Over 100 other species of animals call the zoo home. Since March, there have been no visitors and some of the zoo residents don't mind.

"Some animals aren't that thrilled with the public and when we're open and crowded, they move to the back," Charles Paddock Zoo Dir. Alan Baker said. "They're not doing that because the public isn't here. But some animals like our spider monkey. He seems to be confused like where is everyone kind of, when we walk by, he's like hey."

Though the animals aren't getting much face time with visitors these days, animal enthusiasts can still catch a glimpse of their favorite creature.

The zoo is sharing these videos three days a week, a VIP virtual tour inside each animal habitat.

With the governor's OK, zoo managers are preparing to welcome its two-legged camera-toting visitors back under special circumstances.

"We're probably going to limit some of the areas, like our tiger, we have a Malayan tiger here and the Bronx had a tiger test positive for COVID so we'll keep people back from that area to have a little more space so no one can sneeze on our tiger."

Baker said the zoo will likely set capacity at 40 visitors at a time and require masks, along with social distancing.

When guests do return, Baker said the zoo may look a little different, with updates to animal habitats, improved infrastructure, and even a different layout.

Unlike many other California zoos, the Charles Paddock Zoo is paid for with city funding, so the recent loss of ticket sales isn't such a blow.

The governor's order allows zoos to open as soon as June 15, but the Charles Paddock Zoo anticipates it won't reopen for at least a week later.

Once it's ready to open, Baker said he has to write the plan and submit it to the county and receive clearance before welcoming visitors.