Zoo Atlanta struggling amid coronavirus pandemic but hopes to reopen soon

ATLANTA — Zoo Atlanta is struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, and while it may take a backseat to those who need food or are going bankrupt, the zoo is more than just a wonderful amenity for the city.

Channel 2 Anchor Justin Farmer talked to Atlanta Zoo President and CEO Raymond King for his first television interview on the hardships the zoo is facing.

The zoo will lose some $8 million in revenue this spring.

“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.”

[SPECIAL SECTION --> Latest on coronavirus in Georgia and around the world]

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.

RELATED STORIES:

"It's certainly a big help," King said. "It did what it was supposed to do in that it put people back to work. I do think it's a very attractive program and it's going to help the economy."

King is optimistic that the zoo could open up again soon under limited conditions like crowd limits and social distancing.

“The optimist in me still thinks we’ll be open by the end of May in some limited form,” King said. “We’re making sure we plan for a phased reopening”

King said he understands there's a great need in our community more crucial than the zoo, but some Atlantans are stepping up with donations -- and he's grateful.

If you’d like to help, visit the Zoo Atlanta Emergency Support Fund.