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

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.

To increase traction to the zoo, the campaign “There’s No Zoo Without You” was launched.

“You can go to our website you can click on it you can donate there. We’ve had great support from the community both the businesses, individuals, families,” Ferri said.

As Central Florida deals with the effects of the pandemic, cities like Sanford are coming up with different ways to get business back on track.

For example, the “Sanfording Safely” TV ad was created by the Community Redevelopment Agency in Sanford to ensure patrons local businesses are doing their part to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

“Our hopes are that people will come out of the house, know that they can come to Sanford,” Charles Davis, chairman of the board for Sanford, said. “They can eat in the restaurants, they can spend time in downtown and know that everything is being done to make sure that they are safe from the virus being transmitted.”

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