Covid-19: Oakland Zoo says its running out of money and at risk of closure

The Oakland Zoo is bleeding money and at risk of closure if it does not reopen soon, its executive vice president said.

Alameda County beatThe Oakland Zoo, which has been closed since the covid-19 shelter in place was ordered in mid-March, is losing $2.5 million in revenue each month due to the closure, Nik Dehejia, the Oakland Zoo executive vice president, told the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon.

“We are at risk of closure due to financial distress if we cannot open,” Dehejia added.

Zoo officials argue their business could be interpreted as an outdoor museum, which county public health officials allowed to reopen with certain health and safety restriction on June 19.

County public health officials have been working with the zoo for months in anticipation of safely reopening, including plans to close indoor facilities and rides to the public, along with the outdoor children’s theater. The Sacramento Zoo recently reopened with limited attendance and other restrictions, but Alameda County’s has been notoriously conservative when it comes to its reopening plans.

The zoo’s financial issues not only impact the county, but also the City of Oakland. County officials suggested there is little money available for bailing out the zoo, at this time. Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan suggested seeking donations through online fundraising sites.

Since the Oakland Zoo is run by a non-profit, if it cannot maintain financial solvency, its operations would revert to the city, which is even less equipped to operate the zoo amid record-breaking deficits exacerbated by the coronavirus. “It is in the best interest of the city and the county to reopen,” Dehejia urged the board.

“We’re really in a dilemma here.” Chan added.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, also a former Oakland councilmember, agreed. “If [the zoo] reverts back to the city, the city isn’t going to be able to run the zoo properly and isn’t able financially,” Miley said.

In addition to losing ticket revenue for more than three months, the zoo continues to spend $1.3 million a month on payroll and upkeep of the animals and property, Dehejia told the board.

Two rounds of layoffs, including 120 employees losing their jobs in April, followed a reduction of the full-time staff and pay reductions for 40 percent of the remaining employees. “We are cutting ourselves to the bone,” he added.

In the meantime, the zoo was successful in attaining federal CARES Act funding, but the short-term infusion of money has since run out, Dehejia said, forcing the zoo to dip into reserves.

23 thoughts on “Covid-19: Oakland Zoo says its running out of money and at risk of closure

  1. It would be a travesty to lose this zoo. It’s one of the few family-friendly experiences we have in Alameda County and has provided pleasure and education to generations of East Bay families. Let it open with social distancing restrictions, masks, no rides, etc. but don’t let another fine institution crumble because of the county and the city of Oakland’s mishandling.


  2. Why is Seven Flags open and not this zoo. I used to come here as a little girl with my family. My dad worked for the City of Oakland Parks Department and we used to get in free. We had our yearly Christmas party for children at the Snow Building. I love this zoo my son loves this zoo. Please find a way to keep it open. I want to donate to help.


  3. I’m all for being safe but I think we could socially distance ourselves be outdoors only and support thus amazing zoo. Maybe fundraising online auctions to raise money,this zoo is amazing we have to save this special place.


  4. They should let the Zoo open. It’s not the issue.
    Our local government is run by idiots. We thousands of homeless and giant piles of garbage in the streets in the flats in Oakland. East, West, Downtown…
    A BART system that struggled with basic sanitation before Covid…
    Let the Zoo reopen. Hand out free masks at the gate


  5. So many upgrades have happened to the zoo recently to make the visit a more enjoyable visit for everyone don’t let this go to waste


  6. I went to the zoo as a child now I’m going to be a grandmother and I want to be able to take my grandchild. We need to safe our zoo


  7. Oakland and the surrounding area needs this zoo. Families don’t have many places to go to around here as it is. It can work with social distance,Wear masks, please don’t take this place that has been apart of Oakland for so many years.


  8. Seems to me this would be one of the safest places to go..
    Oakland needs thiis zoo. It is especially important to the very diverse community , and from babies to old.
    Maybe take reservations, only let so many families/people in at a time.
    Wear masks…..close the restaurants temporarily..
    I personally get in free but i would be glad to pay.


  9. I was driving by the zoo recently and saw a double decker truck full of what appeared to be their facility golf carts. I was wondering if they were bringing them in or taking them away. I guess time will tell.


  10. The zoo can safely operate with physical/social distancing, reducing the attendance headcount, online ticket sales, etc. Families, children, and the animals are missing this important community service. Please let the zoo open.


  11. With the exception of a very few exhibits, It’s outside. As long as people wear masks and respect each other’s space it should be fine to open.


  12. It’s outside. They should open using a masks required policy and maintain physical distancing. Being outside while using masks has been proven successful in other states, as well as California. This seems unnecessary to have it remained closed.


  13. Based on current numbers, Covid infections/ populations for Both Sac Co. and Alameda Co are less than .5% of their populations. It’s a great little zoo. Let it open with appropriate social distancing and other restrictions in place.


  14. Sacramento County has 3,222 covid-19 cases as of June 30. Alameda County has 5,985 cases. You can’t just open because some other county did… you have to keep the case count in mind. I think if they opened to zoo to a limited number of guests, say 1/3rd of normal capacity, closed all the indoor spaces, and required mask-wearing and social distancing, it could probably be done relatively safely, but just because someone else has opened, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s appropriate for everyone.


  15. Open the zoo. You can socially distance. Members, renew early. I did! Send your dues in. We need the zoo to survive.


  16. Sacramento zoo is open, lots of people there enjoying family time while distancing from other groups. Time to open up Alameda county and let people take responsibility of themselves.


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