‘There’s no zoo without you:’ Central Florida Zoo hopes animal lovers return soon

Zoo cares for nearly 350 animals

SANFORD, Fla. – As Central Florida continues to navigate through the pandemic, some local and tourist attractions are slowly starting to see an improvement in attendance but despite a boost from the Labor Day weekend, places like the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens continue to struggle with low attendance and a loss in revenue.

Zoo CEO Dino Ferri said the zoo has likely lost out on millions of dollars in revenue from cancelled events.

“It’s a big number and the more I say it, it hasn’t gotten any smaller,” Ferri said. “We did some numbers through the end of this year knowing things that are already gonna be canceled; any special events you know, any of our big fundraising events, school programs. Taking all that into account, we’ll lose about $2.5 million by the end of the year.”

Since the pandemic arrived in Florida, Ferri said they had to make adjustments so they could continue caring for almost 350 animals from 100 different species that live at the zoo.

“Unfortunately, we had to do layoffs; we’ve done salary reductions across the board. We’ve cut contracts where we could,” Ferri said.

Despite having a good turnout over Labor Day weekend, the impact of COVID-19 continues to loom over the zoo.

Currently, the zoo can only operate at 50% capacity -- that’s about one thousand people inside the park at one time.

“We’re nowhere near that. We’re not even hitting that capacity,” Ferri said.

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