The Santa Barbara Zoo is ready to roar.
With the stay-at-home order lifted, guests will be able to visit their furry, scaled and feathered friends beginning Saturday by online reservation.
“We’re operating just like before the shutdown Dec. 7; reservations need to be made in advance. It allows us to space people out,” the zoo’s CEO Rich Block told the News-Press.
The precautions include: masks, physical distancing, frequent sanitization and enclosed exhibit closures.
Members can reserve tickets for time slots between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Guests can purchase tickets for periods between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Since the zoo’s closure, it has welcomed new animals: two white-faced saki monkeys named Penelope and Calabaza, two baby flamingos and a fireback pheasant.
Lion cub Pauline is another new addition, but handlers are still working to ensure she’s comfortable before her premiere performance.
While some animals need time to adjust to humans staring into their homes, others are intrigued by guests. The penguins enjoy people crowding around their exhibit’s railing, Mr. Block said.
“I know many of the animals miss having people around; that’s a welcome part of their day, too,” he said. “They’re observing people as much as we’re observing them.”
He’s excited to open the gates to the community.
“The whole purpose we exist is to provide that connection between people and animals,” he said.
Although the reopening is swift and somewhat unexpected, the zoo’s managers were ready with a plan to reopen. The main step is scheduling previously furloughed staff members.
“We’re ready to go. And everybody’s been planning on this, so we’re ready to bring people back,” Mr. Block said.
When the original shutdown was enforced in March 2020, managers immediately plotted a reopening process. Since then, they’ve been able to expeditiously adjust to guidance from public health departments.
While the zoo was closed, donors stepped up generously, and residents purchased memberships so the zoo could continue its conservation work.
“Going back through everything that happened in 2020, you would never know we were closed for a good portion of the year,” he said. “People did so much. I am incredibly grateful.”
Currently, the Australian Walkabout exhibit is under construction. Mr. Block estimates it will be complete this summer.
Visitors will get to wander around by kangaroos, wallabies and emus.
For those who can’t make it to the zoo in-person, Mr. Block recommends following its social media channels at facebook.com/santabarbarazoo and @SantaBarbaraZoo on Twitter and Instagram.
Tickets are $19.95 for adults, $14.95 for children 2-12, and free for children under 2. Parking is $11. To reserve a time to see the animals, go to reservations.sbzoo.org.