CHICAGO (CBS) — The weather’s finally getting warmer, and places like Brookfield Zoo would be packed on a beautiful spring day, but like much of the world, it will remain a virtual ghost town, other than the animals of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kangaroos, giraffes, rhinos; they’re all still at the Brookfield Zoo, but there is one mammal that’s harder to spot than usual: humans.
“We’d probably have 10,000-plus on a day like today,” said Stuart Strahl, CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, the non-profit that runs the zoo, which closed to the public weeks ago. “It is not just how do we make due now. This coronavirus has made it so that it’s how do we survive as an institution?”
The zoo said it cannot afford to pay nearly one-third of the staff, so they were told to stay home. The Chicago Zoological Society said those workers will still get medical benefits for now, but they don’t know when they might be able to re-hire them.
“As many of those people we can bring back, we will,” Stahl said. “We have to take drastic measures, and it’s no fun going home at night and thinking about what happened.”
The now-reduced staff still has to care for the animals at the zoo, while taking the proper precautions to protect their own safety. Some animals can carry COVID-19. A tiger at a zoo in New York recently tested positive.
The staff at Brookfield Zoo is wearing masks and gloves, and limiting their contact around animals that might carry the virus.
“If our staff are feeling ill, or anything else, they don’t come into work,” Stahl said.
The zoo is asking people to renew their annual memberships now rather than waiting until the zoo re-opens. If you renew your Brookfield Zoo membership now, even though they’re not open, they’ll tack extra time onto the end of your membership period so you’ll get your money’s worth.
The Chicago Zoological Society is also asking for donations, and has applied for federal loans.