TAMPA, Fla. — ZooTampa at Lowry Park might have a more significant challenge than most as they slowly reopen and try to balance protecting visitors and the animals from the visitors.
The zoo is home to more than 1,100 animals from Malayan tigers to southern white rhinos.
“These are all our family members, and I’m very protective, and all of us that take care of them are protective of them,” Dr. Cynthia Stringfield the Senior Vice President of Animal Health Conservation and Education said. “We wouldn’t reopen if we haven’t done everything in our power to make people feel safe.”
Zoo staff took precautions immediately to protect certain animals like orangutans, who share 97% of their DNA with us.
A tiger in the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19. So far, no animals at ZooTampa have contracted the virus.
“Certainly, in some of our cat habitats. So, I went through every single mammal area where the visitors are going to be with my tape measurer. And we are doing the social distancing for them just like we are doing for humans just so no one accidentally gives it to our animals.”
The penguin exhibit needs no social distancing. They are birds and not susceptible to coronavirus.
ZooTampa’s first phase will keep the park capacity to 50%. They are asking visitors to wear masks and social distance, and take precautions not to spread COVID-19. They are also adding safety and thermal monitoring stations at the entrance.
“Thermal imaging cameras will be able to scan and identify anybody who has a fever of more than 100.4. We are also hiring EMTs, and having EMTs available,” Joe Couceiro the President and CEO of ZooTampa said. “And that EMT would approach a person and say 'hey you know this is what came up on the scan,' and take the appropriate medical checks and action subsequent to that.”
In addition to temperature checks, the zoo is also providing PPE to employees and offering disposable masks to any guest free of charge.
“We are hiring additional staff to make sure that we supervise the guest flow. And taking every potential step we can possibly take in order to provide a controlled, safe environment for any of our guests and our employees and our animals,” Couceiro said.
Some of the animals ran from us when we walked by; others were excited to see people and ran towards us. Stringfield said the animals are smart and miss seeing visitors.
“I think the animals are going to be thrilled. We are thrilled. We cannot wait to have people back in the park again,” Stringfield said.
For a detailed list of what the zoo is doing to keep people safe, click here.
For potential job openings, click here.