In the river valley, across a sprawling array of pavilions, hundreds of animals continue on with their daily routines at an empty Edmonton Valley Zoo.
“It’s been a very interesting transition,” operations supervisor Dean Treichel said Thursday.
The facility has been closed to guests for weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s still a busy place as a small army of staff work to feed the animals and keep them healthy.
“We’ve done a lot of sessions with other zoos, listening to what other zoos have been doing and sharing information across Canada and across North America,” says Treichel.
Last month, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a move which has helped inform best practices elsewhere, including Edmonton.
“When we can’t social distance around the large cats, then staff are expected to wear PPE ,” Treichel said. “We’ve also taken measures in terms of trying to isolate our staff from each other.”
All the work comes with costs. During regular operations, the zoo spends about $450,000 a month to keep things running.
Some expenses have come down with no front end or educational staff working right now, but the closure continues to impact the bottom line.
“The revenues that we bring in, they offset our operational costs at about 55 per cent,” Treichel said.
Work is underway on some potential reopening scenarios, including looking at how an open facility would accommodate physical distancing. The city is expected to announce further details next week.
With more than 350 animals calling the zoo home, the question for some: do they miss the human visitors to their home?
Treichel doesn’t believe it makes a big difference, but points out, “I think there’s a couple of animals that might be a little bit more social or recognize it’s a little bit more quieter right now.”
The zoo, along with all city-run facilities, was closed on March 14 as the City of Edmonton reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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