JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is raising money to help its rebound from the pandemic. A spokesperson for the zoo said it lost $6 million when it was forced to close for two months.
While it has reopened with limits, it is expecting to face a minimum of six or seven more tough months. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens board of directors is now turning to the community for help raising money.
Zoo Director Tony Vecchio told News4Jax the money raised will help pay for food for the animals, cover expenses, and simply keep the lights on.
From rhinos to elephants, and String-Ray Bay, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens promises to maintain a fun and enriching experience for guests.
“I’ve been in the zoo business for a long time and dealt with a lot of different crisis but nothing quite like this. It just goes on and on and on and it’s a major impact,” said Tony Vecchio
Vecchio said only 4,000 people are allowed in the zoo in a day for the safety of guests, animals and staff, but that means less revenue coming in.
For perspective, he said, on a busy day pre-pandemic, the zoo would have made about $9,000 in sales.
“When you have 50% of the revenue you usually have, that means you have to make serious cuts or find other sources of revenue,” said Vecchio.
The zoo is making cuts where it can. It closed one restaurant. and stopped a popular animal show because it was just too expensive.
Now, the zoo is turning to the community to help it raise money to recover, through a campaign called the Zoo-A-Thon.
“Just to keep the lights on,” said Vecchio. “Right now, we’re trying to keep the staff employed, salaries are a big expense, animal food is a big expense, people don’t realize it’s a half a million-dollar restaurant bill for our animals every year.”
The zoo is hoping to raise at least $250,000 through the campaign.
To help the zoo, you can donate online at Jacksonvillezoo.org or text “ZOO” to 904-560-5600.
Next Thursday through Sunday there will be a telethon to raise money. It will be open from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
The finale of the Zoo-A-Thon will air at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20 on Channel 4.