New York Zoos and Aquarium Plan to Open this Month


The sea lions may get an audience soon enough, but they shouldn’t expect sold-out shows.

After more than four months of coronavirus lockdown, four city zoos and the New York Aquarium are preparing to open to the public on July 24 at limited capacity.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the five facilities, announced on Thursday that they are planning to open the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and the New York Aquarium to members on July 20, then to the broader public four days later.

July 20 is the first possible date that the zoos could welcome visitors under the state’s phased reopening plan. Zoos fall in the fourth and final phase, along with museums and theaters. New York City only entered the third stage on Monday, but the conservation society is anticipating being allowed to open on that date because officials have generally allowed regions to move into a new phase every two weeks.

Zoos have been in an unusual predicament since the pandemic shut down the city in mid-March. Unlike Broadway theaters or museums, they cannot go dark because there are thousands of animals that need to be taken care of.

Since they closed to the public on March 16, the zoos have had a portion of their employees on site to feed the animals, keep them on their daily routines and provide medical attention. (There were several coronavirus scares to deal with at the Bronx Zoo after a tiger tested positive and other tigers and lions were found to have similar symptoms.)

When the zoos and aquarium reopen, New York State will require that those facilities limit their employees and visitors to no more than one-third of their maximum occupancy.

The zoos will use timed ticketing as a strategy to control the number of people present at once, according to a news release from the conservation society, and visitors will only be allowed to purchase tickets online. All visitors will be required to wear face masks unless they are 3-years-old or younger. Health care workers can visit for free.

Both outdoor and indoor exhibits will open to visitors, although some exhibits that pose a heightened risk will remain closed, including the 4-D theater at the Central Park Zoo and the camel rides at the Bronx Zoo.

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