SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved thousands of dollars in tourist development tax money for funding and maintenance of the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
The item was to authorize $300,000.
The attraction has been struggling ever since the pandemic began, which led to low attendance and a loss in revenue. During the summer, zoo officials applied for Emergency Operating Funds and applied for an additional $300,000 to recover the money they lost during the shutdown.
“When the zoo came to the tourist development council originally prior to COVID, they originally wanted $600,000, however, the tourist development council discussed this with zoo members of staff and we agreed due to COVID and the decrease in tourist development tax collections, $600,000 would just not be feasible,” Deputy County Manager Tricia Johnson said.
News 6 spoke to the CEO of Central Florida Zoo in September and he said they had to do layoffs and salary reductions because of the pandemic, which forced them to close their gates for nearly two months.
Zoo CEO Dino Ferri says the facility started its There Is No Zoo Without You fundraising campaign to help keep operations afloat.
“Our great institution has raised nearly $2 million thanks to the generosity of so many. Even in a worldwide pandemic, our animals need to be cared for and fed. Our efforts today will ensure the Zoo will be enjoyed by all for years to come," he said in a news release.
The zoo is home to more than 350 animals, and it is open to visitors, though the park has limited capacity along with safety rules to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Those interested in donating to its fundraising campaign can head to centralfloridazoo.org/you.