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Utah's Hogle Zoo faces financial difficulty amid COVID-19 closure

Posted at 3:00 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 17:57:11-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah’s Hogle Zoo is trying to power through the COVID-19 pandemic.

On a busy spring day, the zoo would welcome up to 5,000 guests.

But now, there are zero crowds and a skeleton crew on site, all due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Utah's Hogle Zoo, which is a registered 501c(3) non-profit, closed its gates on March 17, but staff are still providing round the clock care to all the animals.

Two teams of employees rotate shifts and wear masks when on-duty.

“Our number one priority is the health and well-being of our animals,” Hogle Zoo spokeswoman Erika Hansen said.

But every week that passes, it is falling deeper into a financial hole. Until guests are allowed back, zoo managers are forced to make some tough financial decisions.

“Even though the gates are closed, the expenses don’t go down,” Hansen said.

One difficult decision was ending their contract with the popular bird show.

Hansen says they’re sad to see it go, but taking on the additional costs to care for the birds isn’t feasible at this time.

“The money that we make right now and through the summer is what floats us through the winter when our attendance really drops,” Hansen said. “So to not have this money now is that’s going to just linger and it’s going to be tight for a while.”

Still, the zoo is doing what they can to keep the public connected to the animals.

Every day at 11:30 a.m., they do a Facebook live video and feature some of the animals and exhibits, and they’re getting a lot of traction.

“People turn towards nature at times like this,” Hansen said.

Although the zoo remains closed until further notice, guests can still buy tickets and memberships to use when it reopens.

Donations can also be made on the zoo’s website.