CINCINNATI, OH (April 28, 2020) – Many Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden employees are adding poop scooping and stall cleaning to their usual “to do” lists in order to support the animal care staff, which lost its part time and seasonal workers due to layoffs made as a result of the Zoo closing to the public last month. Full-time staff members from education, group sales, public relations, special events and other departments around the Zoo have traded in dress shoes and laptops for boots and wheelbarrows to help care for the Zoo’s 2,000 animals and acres of plants.
“We’re all stepping up and pitching in to help in animal areas,” said David Orban, Cincinnati Zoo’s manager of animal excellence and temporary keeper’s assistant. “A Zoo can’t just close. We still have mouths to feed and specialized staff needed to provide care. A lot of us are learning completely new skills and finding that animal care and horticulture work is a labor of love and that so much passion and creativity go into it.”
Non-animal department staff members have been trained to prep animal diets, clean habitats, and perform other important tasks as directed. They have also gained the experience needed to perform critical keeper tasks so they can provide backup if an animal team member has to be out due to illness or other circumstances.
“I’ve learned so much in the weeks that I’ve been working in the Cat Ambassador Program (CAP),” said Angela Hatke, Cincinnati Zoo’s manager of visitor engagement and publicity and temporary member of the CAP team. “I prepare meals for the cheetahs, servals, ocelots, domestic cats, porcupine, and red river hog that live in the cat ambassador facility. I’ve also been able to incorporate the animals and trainers into a lot of social media posts, so I’m doing my “real” job at the same time!”
In addition to ensuring that necessary work gets done, the cross-departmental staffing has given team members a new appreciation for what others do and has provided an opportunity for new friendships to form.
One member of the CAP team posted her appreciation for Hatke’s contributions on Instagram saying that, “This week was made better by my new covid-coworker @angelahatke who is taking time out of her busy schedule in the PR department at the zoo to help out the blue-team of cat show. She’s been a huge help both in the physical work of the job and the staying positive aspect. From listening to @taylorswift blaring while we’re cleaning, to watching her hold a rat, to learning how to TikTok on our lunch breaks, it’s made this ruff time more bearable. Thanks for the help friend!!”
Eventually, when the Zoo is up and running and able to bring back volunteers and rehire support staff, the temporary animal staffers will return to their desks. They will also have a lasting appreciation and connection with the people who are the heart of the Zoo.
“Getting through this difficult time together will ultimately make the Zoo team stronger,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard. “We’ve been sticking together to take care of each other, and it’s been wonderful to be a part of that.”
The Zoo has been operating without revenue from admissions, events, parking, rides, education programs or food/retail sales since it closed on March 15, 2020, and has lost millions of dollars as a result. It will take time to rebuild, but the Zoo is looking forward to welcoming guests and extended Zoo family members back. It will do so in accordance with CDC and state guidelines.
To support the Zoo, please donate to its Emergency Operating Fund online or send a check made payable to the Cincinnati Zoo (with Emergency Fund in the memo) to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Development, 3400 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45220. Staff can be reached at[email protected] or 513-559-7716.