With a community on virtual lockdown and needing to stay at least 6 feet away from one another, the Santa Barbara Zoo is offering you a chance to get out of the house on Saturday, even if you will have to be confined to your car.
Facing its “greatest financial crisis it has ever experienced in its 57-year history,” the zoo is hosting a “Drive By, Wave Hi!” donation parade on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.
No, you won’t be able to get a peek at Twiga, the adorable new giraffe, or even Monty, the social media superstar penguin that is lighting up the zoo’s digital channels — but the zoo is in need of help to care for its animals.
According to a news release, the zoo is facing uncertain times.
“With more than 500 animals on 30 acres of land, and robust programs in the areas of conservation and science education, the Zoo is a pillar among cultural institutions in the Santa Barbara community. The Zoo typically has more than 15,000 member households and an average of more than 480,000 guest visits each year (more than any other local cultural institution). The Zoo is also the number one (paid) tourist attraction in Santa Barbara County, responsible for bringing in significant day-tourism revenues in support of the local economy.
“The Zoo’s closure due to the coronavirus pandemic has created an abrupt and devastating interruption to their normal admissions driven revenues. The unrealized revenues that the Zoo is experiencing from the absence of attendance, no food and beverage or retail sales, no on-site education program fees, and no attraction or private and public event revenue, is greater than any revenue loss the Zoo has experienced in its 57-year history.”
To date, the zoo has laid off more than 100 part-time and full-time staffers, retaining only critical personnel to aid the animals.
“These difficult decisions were all made in an effort to maintain the Zoo’s top priorities,” said Rich Block, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s president and CEO. “We remain dedicated to the health and welfare of the animals who reside at the Zoo, the safety of our employees working on-site, and the continued efforts to save local endangered and threatened wildlife.”
Saturday’s parade will allow children and adults alike a chance to dress up in animal costumes, decorate your car and drive through the zoo’s parking lot, where you can wave to your favorite animal caretakers and staffers.
According to the news release, it costs nearly $630,000 per month to keep the essential operations going at the zoo. Some of these costs include feeding the endangered California condors $150 weekly; the penguin colony costs $250 weekly to feed; just to get feeder insects alone costs $1,200 per week; all together, the weekly animal food bill is $6,000.
“The Santa Barbara Zoo has served as a community anchor for over 50 years, and we want to continue serving the hundreds of thousands of families whose lives we touch every year,” shared Block. “With your support, we know we can get through this together.”