Zoo Atlanta announces its reopening date

Zoo Atlanta announces its reopening date
The patio of Savanna Hall overlooks the elephant enclosure at Zoo Atlanta. Christina Matacotta/ crmatacotta@gmail.com

ATLANTA — You’ll have more fun activities to do this weekend with the reopening of Zoo Atlanta.

The zoo will reopen to the public on Saturday but with some changes to help keep visitors safe.

The zoo has been closed to the public since March 14.

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Here are the new procedures for visitors:

Timed ticketing: Zoo Atlanta has transitioned to a timed ticketing system to control capacity and limit the number of guests who are inside the Zoo at any given time. Tickets may only be purchased online, and all transactions within the Zoo will be paperless, with no cash transactions. Paper maps will transition to all-digital maps guests may view on mobile devices. Timed tickets will be available beginning Thursday, May 14.

Outdoor experience: Zoo Atlanta provides a largely outdoor experience in a park environment. During this first phase of the Zoo’s reopening, all buildings (restrooms excepted), indoor venues and indoor experiences are temporarily closed, as are amenities such as Splash Fountain, rides and play areas. Food and gifts will be sold from outdoor kiosks.

One-way experience to optimize social distancing: At all locations where feasible, Zoo Atlanta will promote a one-way experience that reinforces social distancing guidelines. Pathway guides will be on hand to assist guests and encourage social distancing.

Promoting wellness: All Zoo Atlanta team members will wear masks in public-facing areas of Zoo grounds. Visitors are strongly encouraged to, but are not required to, wear masks. Hand sanitizing stations are available throughout the Zoo for guest convenience. Zoo teams will also frequently clean and disinfect touchpoints, restroom touchpoints and restrooms using a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved disinfectant.

Encouraging recommended self-care: Visitors are encouraged to remain mindful of current CDC guidelines and public health recommendations by practicing appropriate self-care and social distancing while on Zoo grounds.

“We are pleased to welcome our Members and guests back to the outdoor experiences and connections to wildlife that can only be found at Zoo Atlanta. As important as this is to us, it was essential that we not reopen the Zoo until we could do so confidently, with the safety of our visitors, team members and the animals in our care as the number one priority,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “Many weeks of planning have gone into our reopening, and everything we have done or will do is being done with this in mind.”

Channel 2′s Justin Farmer talked to King about the hardships the zoo faced during the shut down.

“So we laid off about half of our full-time staff, laid off all our part-time and seasonal staff ,” King said. “I suspended my salary.”

King said the senior team also took a 25% pay cut.

"Obviously, the animals require the same level of care whether we're open or closed," King said.

The news isn’t all bad. The zoo qualified for $2.4 million in federal dollars in the CARES Act. The money will keep zoo staff working for now, but it needs more money, and it’s a tough time to raise money.

Zoo Atlanta struggling amid coronavirus pandemic