ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The COVID-19 pandemic has closed Como Park Zoo and Conservatory to visitors for more than two weeks, marking its longest closure in history.
“To be closed and not have the public here is very different for us,” said Michelle Furrer, Como Zoo’s director and campus manager.
And for some of the animals it’s a change of pace.
“Some animals probably don’t even notice the change without the public here, but others, you can see that their activity is a little bit down, so we’ve been increasing that enrichment,” said Furrer.
With concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, Furrer says that staff began stepping up safety precautions weeks before the nation’s first animal, a tiger, tested positive for COVID-19 at a Bronx zoo.
Protocol changes, such as limiting contact, are also underway with the great apes whose DNA and genetic makeup is similar to that of humans.
“We have limited the number of staff that work in those areas,” she said. “We’ve put those staff into working groups. Additional protocols with their PPE, covering with masks.”
An admission-free attraction, the city-owned facility is also taking an economic hit.
“Every day that we are closed, it does have an impact on our financial situation,” said Furrer.
The animals and staff are adjusting to a new normal, with plans to reopen on hold.
“I think that all of us are struggling with what that’s going to look like when we are able to reopen, all things are being considered right now like when are we able to reopen, will our summer season look like it has in the past and I don’t know if it will,” she said.
Every afternoon, the zoo and conservatory offers digital programming live on its website as a way for people to visit the facility without leaving their homes.