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Kansas City Zoo puts safety procedures in place for reopening

Posted at 5:54 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 18:54:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In preparation to reopen May 16, the Kansas City Zoo has put a number of safety procedures in place for guests.

Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff said the Zoo worked closely with the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department to get ready to open after being closed for eight weeks.

"We're just grateful that we've been given the opportunity and the okay to reopen in a safe manner," Wisthoff said.

The Zoo is asking guests to order tickets online, which will be available in 15-minute increments.

"We're encouraging people to stay in their cars if their time isn't here yet, when you come down to the front entrance we've got queuing lines," Wisthoff said.

As a way to help guests practice social distancing, the zoo will only allow 4,500 guests in per day and not all at the same time.

"Backing off to 4,500 I think just ensures that we won't be overcrowded, you won't feel like people are standing on top of you," Wisthoff said.

Mary Beth Summers said she plans to take her boys nearly every week.

"We've been anxiously waiting for it to open back up," Summers said. "I really feel like they are doing as much as they can to make sure that everybody is comfortable so I really appreciate that."

Along with capacity limitations, Wisthoff said the zoo will be closing all playgrounds and rides except for the Africa Tram, which will have a limited occupancy and social distance measures.

Indoor exhibits such as Stingray Bay, Helzberg Penguin Plaza and the Tropics will have one-way arrow markers, and staff will monitor how many people are inside at once.

Kansas City residents Fred and Leana Heese said they renewed their yearly membership Friday and are excited to go to Saturday's re-opening.

"I think it'll be okay as long as everybody respects each other's space," Fred Heese said. "Hopefully we can move away from this, but for the time being if this is what we've got to do to get out and enjoy the zoo this is what we've got to do."

Even though guests haven't been around for eight weeks, the animals never stopped getting their proper care. Wisthoff said the zoo received a small business loan for labor and utilities.

"We've had full staff coming in to take care of the animals, our veterinary department has been here in full force, our facilities department has been here in full force for the full eight weeks," Wisthoff said.

Other changes include virtual zookeeper chats that people can access on their mobile phones.

Guests are not required to wear masks, but they are strongly encouraged. All staff members will be wearing masks and constantly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas.

Season ticket holders are able to get their tickets online with their membership number.