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See how The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens continue to care for animals despite park closure

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Wednesday, April 8 is National Zoo Lover’s Day and we sure do love our local zoo, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

This would normally be the busiest time of year for the zoo, but due to the coronavirus pandemic that's not the case.

News Channel 3’s Caitlin Thropay checked in with the zoo to see how they are managing to take care of their animals despite being closed.

“We do keep up with their training even though we are closed,” animal care keeper, Erin Rivera told News Channel 3 while working with their African Wild Dogs.

Rivera is one of the many dedicated staff members of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. She helps feed the 11 African Wild Dog puppies while the zoo is closed.

“We are going to feed our adult dogs and then once mom and dad tell the puppies it’s okay, they are probably going to start swarming up to us to get fed,” Rivera said.

Just a month ago, the zoo was gearing up for a busy spring season and continuation of their 50th-anniversary celebrations. Now, not a guest is insight.

“We should have kids walking around and grandparents walking the gardens with their grandkids," director of animal care, Roxanna Breitigan said. "We should have thousands of people here right now and it does feel a little sad that we aren’t able to share our beautiful zoo with our guests who would normally be here this time of year,” Breitigan added.

The animals are the main focus right now. Animal care keepers are making sure they get everything they need despite the zoo’s large layoff of their staff.

“Even though we are here every day taking care of the animals and doing our best, it has still been quite challenging," Breitigan said. "Some of the challenges have been saying goodbye, at least on a temporary basis hopefully to our team members that are no longer with us right now,” Breitigan said.

The zoo is expecting to lose $3.5 million over the next several months while they are closed.

More: Living Desert zoo taking coronavirus precautions with animals and staff

“We need to keep our business going into the future so we’ve been applying for the stimulus loans and trying to put in place strategic plans so that once this whole situation is behind us we can open safely and have people come back to our wonderful park,” President and CEO of The Living Desert, Allen Monroe said.

“Right off the bat when we started to notice things were getting a little tumultuous we ordered extra supplies, extra meat for our carnivores, extra grain for our herbivores, extra hay for animals like our giraffe so that we could have a three to six month supply of all the food for the animal,” Breitigan said.

African Wild Dogs eat 60 pounds of meat a day so they had to prepare for a lot of extra food. As for the plant-eaters, the gardens department started growing romaine lettuce as a backup source.

“It’s not just a job for our staff," Monroe said. "It’s a mission, a calling. It’s what they chose to do,” he added.

You can help The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens remain a staple attraction to our desert by donating here: http://www.livingdesert.org/support/ways-to-give/

For those that have an annual membership to the park, you will get an extension to your membership for however many months the zoo is closed.

Also, don't miss out on a great opportunity to keep learning about animals from the zookeepers themselves. Every Tuesday at 11 a.m. on The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens Facebook page you can attend Zoo School and watch live zookeeper chats with the animals of the zoo!

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Caitlin Thropay

Caitlin Thropay is the Weekend Morning Anchor and Lifestyle Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3, The Desert’s News Leader. Learn more about Caitlin here.

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