Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo closed effective Tuesday, March 17, to do our part to arrest the spread of COVID-19, just as we headed into what is our peak season. Although our gates are closed to the public, staff members continue to come to work every day. We have more than 300 animals on grounds, many of them endangered species. Our animal care staff must feed, clean, offer training and enrichment each day to animals from tigers and leopards to Spider monkeys and Golden lion tamarins, along with dozens more.
But while the Zoo continues to operate behind the scenes, without guests, we have lost our largest and most important source of income. Our revenue losses are now in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and as each day passes, the shortfall in operating funds grows. We have set up an emergency fund, and our spring appeal is designated as emergency support, but without additional government help, we face an difficult future.
Still, rain or shine, open or closed, the Zoo staff continues to care for our family of animals. While the animal care staff is engaged with their charges, the Education staff has pivoted from on-grounds education programming to internet-based, Distance Learning initiatives for students of all ages. Each day, Zoo educators film a variety of Next Generation Science Standards-compliant videos, making them available on our website, via social media, to broadcasting partners, and as resources for the state’s outreach to teachers.
One of the Farmyard’s animal care specialists sewed colorful masks to help protect her colleagues. The Zoo’s Education Curator is working from home, but he’s making videos of backyard wildlife for schoolchildren. The Peacock Café’s chef has locked the doors to the restaurant but is serving staff meals through a side window. Photographer volunteers have turned photos into coloring sheets for kids, Facebook Live is available three times a week focusing on different animals each time, and a Zoo supporter from Canada purchased a family membership and asked for us to give it away.
We all know that our ability to change and adapt is a trait that has carried us through time, to our 98th year. We are being asked to adapt once again; we can, and we will. As a 501 © (3) non-profit, however, we rely on ticket sales, Zoo visits, memberships, education program fees, donations and meeting and rental revenue to operate. Being closed will have a significant impact on our operating budget. Any size donation to our emergency operating fund will assist us in the care of our animals and team members.
— Lisa Clair