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Fresno Chaffee Zoo Opens Friday, CEO Delays Retirement



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The Fresno Chaffee Zoo will reopen at 9 a.m. Friday, zoo executive Scott Barton said in a late morning Zoom teleconference on Wednesday.

Dr. Rais Vohra, interim health officer for Fresno County, joined Barton at the zoo for the announcement.

“I really want to give you kudos for the very hard work that you’ve been doing. You’ve obviously all been hard at work,” Vohra said. “Just taking care of all of the beautiful animals that you have here at the zoo.”

Dr. Rais Vohra, interim health officer for Fresno County, helps announce the zoo’s reopening during a Zoom call.  (Fresno County Health Department)

Pre-Purchase Tickets

The zoo encourages people to purchase tickets ahead of time. Plans call for allowing 1,300 guests inside at a time.

“Buy your tickets (online) to ensure that you will be able to get into the zoo,” Barton said. “If we meet our mass capacity, and you’re just walking in, we may not be able to accommodate you right away.”

When you pre-purchase a ticket, you’re given a timed entry ticket. This reserves your entry time.

Zoo members will enter free but will need to reserve their timed entry.

No Paper Maps

Barton also recommended that guests review and download the zoo’s digital map and visitors guide before arrival. Staff will not hand out paper maps, and the digital map and guide have the most up-to-date information.

When You Arrive

If you are early, please wait in your car until your designated arrival time.

Barton said that zoo staff will try to accommodate late arrivals but cannot guarantee entry because of the capacity limits.

Some areas and exhibits will remain closed in the early stages of the zoo’s phased reopening. And, some paths will be “one way” to ensure social distancing.

Face Coverings

All guests over age 12 will be asked to use face coverings in case social distancing is not possible.

Delays Retirement

Barton announced in March his intention to retire this fall. But that was pre-COVID-19.

“My retirement is delayed a little bit,” Barton said in response to a question from GV Wire. “It’s an odd last year here, but fortunately we’re making progress.”

Zoo Financial Picture

Barton says March, April, and May are usually the busiest months of the year and normally when the zoo makes most of its annual $18 million budget.

“We did dip into our reserve a little bit. Because of the PPP (Paycheck Protection) program, we were able to keep all of our staff,” Barton said.

Barton said that Measure Z provides about 30% of the zoo’s funding.

He says by reopening on Friday, the zoo’s financial picture will improve dramatically.