Santa Barbara Zoo looking to community for donations during pandemic closure

Posted at 2:00 PM, Apr 14, 2020

The Santa Barbara Zoo is closed to the public, but still operating at full capacity when it comes to taking care of the animals that live there.

Rich Block, the president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Zoo, says 97 percent of the general operating budget for the zoo comes from visitors.

He says 100 part-time staff and some full-time staff were let go due to funding issues, but there are still around 90 employees working remotely and on zoo grounds on a daily basis. The animal care workers still on site include zoo keepers, veterinarian support, facilities team, as well as other team members working on site.

"The constant for us, the 24/7, year in and year out is the care of the animals, so that is the number one priority - taking care of the animals," Block said.

Block says when it comes to revenue loss, the zoo is looking at a monthly deficit ranging from $700,000 to $800,000. To mitigate the lost funds, Block says applications have been submitted for PPP government funding, but the zoo is also turning to the public for help.

"You can donate to the general operations, people are still joining the zoo and becoming members to be supportive. We have a foster feeder program where people can adopt an animal in the zoo and there's a nice return on that with some benefits, so people can do that," Block said. "All of those things, besides outside donations, fuel our revenue right now. "

While foot traffic through the zoo is only from those who are caring for the animals, the zoo is posting videos and photos to its YouTube and Instagrampages to bring the zoo into the homes of local community members.

"The one relief we have right now is that we can reach people through social media and our team has done a fantastic job on reaching out to the community with stories about the animals," Block said.

When it comes to the health and safety of the staff who are working on site, Block says that conditions are consistently being monitored to make sure best practices are being followed.

As for what the zoo will look like when it re-opens, Block says that is still something being discussed as the future remains uncertain.

"We're trying to look at all the potential things that might happen," Block said.

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