Portland, OR. For elephants Rose-Tu, Shine, and Chendra, life at the Oregon Zoo has remained mostly the same since the zoo closed to the public on March 17th as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But starting on July 12th they’ll be able to see visitors outside their enclosure. The Oregon Zoo is reopening to the public, allowing fans to see the Asian elephant exhibit and many more. The zoo’s four-months without visitors has given some animals new opportunities, like penguins Nacho and Goat who recently went for a supervised woodland waddle.
“The outpouring of public support over these past three months has been incredible,” said Dr. Don Moore, zoo director. “The path forward may feel unfamiliar, especially at first, but we are excited to begin welcoming back our guests and continue working with the people of greater Portland — and Oregon more broadly — to create a better future for wildlife.”
New regulations are in place at the Oregon Zoo to maintain social distancing guidelines. Time-specific tickets prevent the zoo from exceeding its decreased capacity, meeting social distancing requirements. A one-way path through the zoo will also make social distancing easier. Some indoor and high-touch areas of the zoo will remain closed until further notice, including the carousel and train rides, play areas, and indoor seating.
All zoo employees and guests age six and up are required to wear face masks. Younger children are encouraged to wear masks, but the zoo acknowledges that this can be a difficult feat. Only those over six-years-old with medical conditions preventing them from wearing a facemask will be exempt from this rule.
To help ensure a safe experience for all, the following measures will be in place during the zoo’s initial reopening phase:
- Timed ticketing/limited attendance: To prevent crowding and long lines, the zoo will open with reduced capacity and timed ticketing. All guests — including zoo members — must reserve their tickets online in advance. Guests will choose a day and time to visit, and receive an electronic ticket to be scanned once they arrive. Tickets may be reserved/purchased via the zoo website. Member-only preview reservations are available Monday, July 6. General admission and all other membership reservations go on sale Wednesday, July 8.
- Primarily outdoor experience: Guests will follow a one-way, mostly open-air path through the zoo’s 64-acre park-like campus, with some indoor and high-touch areas remaining closed. Visitors should keep an eye out for blue “Paws [pause] for Safety” markers along the route. Carousel and train rides will not be operating.
- Masks/face coverings: To help protect the safety of animals, staff and guests, face coverings will be required for zoo employees and for all guests over the age of 6 upon entry and in designated areas. Guests ages 2-5 are encouraged to wear masks if possible. Guests who are unable to wear a mask or face covering for medical reasons will be exempt.
- Handwashing and sanitizing stations: Additional handwashing and sanitizing stations have been added throughout the zoo.
Dr. Moore expressed his gratitude to members and donors to the Oregon Zoo Foundation’s emergency recovery fund, which provided a $1 million infusion to support zoo operations following the closure. Even when the zoo reopens though, it faces much uncertainty, he says.
“Reopening, even in this limited fashion, is a huge step forward,” Moore said. “But we still really need help from our zoo supporters and friends to get us back on our feet.”
The foundation is leading efforts to fund the critical needs of the zoo during its scaled-back reopening. To contribute, go to oregonzoo.org/donate.
Moore also praised the efforts of the zoo’s animal-care team, who “have not let COVID-19 slow down their important work” since the zoo closed on March 17th.
From Oregon Zoo:
While closed, animal care continued as usual. The Oregon Zoo remains well-stocked throughout the entire year with food and medicine, prepared for emergency situations such as these. The Oregon Zoo Foundation’s emergency recovery fund helped finance the continuing operations of the zoo after its sudden closure.
Home to around 2,500 animals representing more than 200 species, the Oregon Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, first opening in 1888. Now recognized as a world-class center for wildlife preservation and field research, the zoo’s 130-plus-year journey has seen vast leaps in animal-welfare science, and an increasing focus on sustainable operations, wildlife education and conservation.