Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend announced Tuesday that it will not open for the season as planned on April third because of the coronavirus crisis. A postponed opening date has not been set.
With the Zoo largely closed to the public in the winter, there haven’t been any big changes yet. But with opening day coming up, Zoo officials decided to postpone it for now.
Zoo staff were getting ready to open for the season, but instead they’ve moved to essential staff only, which is mostly keepers who take care of the animals.
“I don’t think you can ever meet a more dedicated group of people then zookeepers," said Executive Director Josh Sisk. "When it comes to their animals they will be here rain, shine, doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas, they’re here.”
Sisk said the staff were split into two groups in case anyone gets sick. He said primate keepers are also practicing social distancing with their animals because primates can often catch human diseases.
Sisk said the empty zoo seems strange to those who are left.
“What really energizes a zoo is the community and the staff and the people that come to the zoo so it’s just been kind of this odd feeling around the zoo.”
Sisk said the Zoo is planning to put out videos of keepers and education staff during the closure.
Some zoo animals, including the zoo's ambassador animals that would usually be visiting kids in classrooms are able to take advantage of the closure and go for walks around the empty sidewalks and offices.
The zoo will remain closed to the public for as long as necessary to keep the workers and the animals safe.