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The zoo operates with a fixed cost of $3 million whether it is open or not. This covers expenses such as caring for the animals. Another $265,000 was needed to cover reopening expenses including new COVID-19 signage, extra cleaning and returning staff.
Dewar, who took on the role as the zoo’s director a few months ago, said he wasn’t entirely sure how many staff were rehired back.
Exceeding visitor expectations
Nearly 400,000 people visit the zoo every year, with about 30 per cent of those being tourists, according to documents obtained through a freedom of information request. Nearly 300,000 of the visits happen between June and December. However, the city in a May 15 briefing note estimated that number to be closer to 72,500 if the zoo reopened at 25 per cent capacity.
Dewar said the zoo has far exceeded those early expectations for visitation after reopening.
“The projections we set out for ourselves were a little conservative,” he said. “We’ve actually enjoyed just shy of 125,000 people (who) have visited us since we reopened, which is significant. (Attendance) certainly slowed over the last few weeks because of course, it’s not necessarily our busiest time when it’s winter.”
The Valley Zoo houses more than 350 individual animals from over 100 different species, including 14 that are classified as endangered.
Tickets for the zoo are available online only and there is a daily capacity limit of 50 per cent or 1,500 people. Face masks are mandatory while on the grounds with the exception of children under the age of two years old.