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Santa Barbara Zoo welcomes new animals while reopening with safety measures following COVID-19 closure

Santa Barbara Zoo
Blake DeVine/KEYT
Baby giraffe Twiga takes a look at train passengers at the ​Santa Barbara Zoo.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — After being closed to guests since mid-March, the ​Santa Barbara Zoo​ will reopen to the public on Tuesday with online reservations. 

This weekend, zoo members are taking part in a soft opening to help the staff observe high-traffic areas and traffic patterns so they can make any necessary adjustments.

“It’s awesome, we’ve been waiting for this since it closed,” zoo member Leo Welder said. “We were actually here the weekend before it closed.”

“We’ve really missed it,” another zoo member Kipley Lytel said. This is one of the best features of living in Santa Barbara.”

Throughout it’s closure during the COVID-19 pandemic, the zoo added some animals. 

“We have two very exciting additions, Twiga our baby giraffe who was born at the very end of March,” Santa Barbara Zoo Husbandry and Welfare Director Misty Gray said. “We also have two new lions, we brought in Ralph and Felicia in May.”

Ralph and Felicia arrived to the zoo on May 6. The lions had a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). 

The pair return to fill the void left from the death of the zoo's beloved Chadwick.

In order to reopen, the zoo implemented a number of safety enhancements and ​modifications to protect the health and safety of all guests, staff and animals. 

“We’ve added a sanitation crew to go around and help sanitize high-touch surfaces like railings, doors, windows,” Gray said.

For the most part, people seem confident that they’ll be able to physically distance themselves throughout the 30 acre outdoor property. 

“Oh it’s totally clean, it’s very safe,” Welder said.

“It’s a massive complex and I would say most people are at least twelve feet apart,” Lytel said.

Many visitors are thrilled to partake in fun family activities once again.

“We’re in nature with animals and that just really is the best thing for kids,” Lytel concluded.

Guests can use the ​online reservation system​ to book a timed entry slot prior to visiting the Zoo.

The Zoo is still accepting registrations for Zoo Camp. The camp will begin on Monday and runs through August 14 for children ages 3 through 12. 

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Blake DeVine

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