The Oakland Zoo can reopen and outdoor dining can resume in Alameda County following the state’s approval of a variance allowing more activities in the county, public health officials announced Wednesday.
The zoo will reopen to the public for outdoor activities only starting July 29. Tickets will go on sale July 26 at oaklandzoo.org.
The zoo closed in March when a shelter-in-place order went into effect in the county to limit the spread of COVID-19. The zoo was closed for 121 days and at risk of closing permanently.
Alameda County health officials submitted a request for a variance Tuesday after the Board of Supervisors gave their support for it, which was required before health officials could submit it.
“We’re excited to be able to reopen the Zoo and welcome back our guests,” zoo president and CEO Joel Parrott, a veterinarian, said in a statement.
The Oakland Zoo is the last major zoo in the state to reopen and it will do so while ensuring the health and safety of guests, staff and animals, zoo officials said.
“We can’t wait for people to come back and enjoy the outdoors at the zoo,” said Nik Dehejia, executive vice president of the zoo.
Many animals have noticed the absence of visitors and zookeepers are excited to see the animals’ reaction when guests return.
Recent additions to the zoo include Kijiji the giraffe, Aluna, a newborn Hamadryas baboon, and seven newborn American buffalo.
More than 750 animals reside at the zoo and most will be available for viewing. Some areas will be closed for health and safety reasons. A list of the closed areas can be found at oaklandzoo.org/reopening.
The zoo will open in stages, starting with limiting the number of visitors through an online ticket reservation system.
Dining and shopping will be limited, and among other safety measures, places people touch a lot will be cleaned and sanitized frequently, and guests ages 3 and older will be required to wear a face covering.
Even though the zoo will reopen, attendance will be limited to one-third of normal capacity and revenue will still fall short of the zoo’s normal operating costs.
To raise money, the zoo is planning a virtual fundraiser and reopening celebration called LollapaZOOla, which will stream at oaklandzoo.org at 7 p.m. on July 25.
“It’s been a long four months of closure,” Dehejia said. “We’re excited to put that behind us.”