SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Staff members at the Santa Barbara Zoo are taking extra precautions in light of a tiger that tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.
“Of course our staff was concerned hearing that there was a tiger who was positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo,” Santa Barbara Zoo director of animal health Dr. Julie Barnes said. “The good news is, a couple of weeks prior to hearing this news, we’d already implemented increased protocols to keep our animals safe.”
Animal care staff must now wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and use foot bath stations when going into or coming out of certain exhibits.
Santa Barbara doesn't have tigers like the Bronx Zoo, but the private nonprofit has nearly 500 other animals.
Dr. Barnes is concerned about zoonotic diseases or those spread from humans to animals.
“We’re particularly worried about our mammals,” Barnes said. “We’ve increased all our protocols working around our mammals.”
Although the zoo’s gates have been closed since March 17, the staff has been working hard to protect the animals while also engaging the public through social media.
“We’re really trying to reach out to our members and to the community through social media,” Barnes said. “We’re posting new things every day on social media.”
With 97% of the zoo’s annual budget relying on earned revenues from operations, closing their doors creates challenges greater than they have ever experienced in 57 years of existence.
However, staff members have kept a positive outlook.
“Right now, we’re focusing on keeping our animals healthy, keeping our staff healthy and planning for when we can actually reopen in the near future,” Barnes concluded.
For those looking to help support the Santa Barbara Zoo during these difficult times, you can donate online by visiting their website.