Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Public Safety

San Diego Zoo Remains Open, But Uncertainty Remains

The San Diego Zoo's front gate under a larger than life statue of Rex the Lion on June 11, 2020.
Erik Anderson
The San Diego Zoo's front gate under a larger than life statue of Rex the Lion on June 11, 2020.

The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are still welcoming visitors despite additional COVID-19 restrictions that went into effect this month.

The coronavirus limitations have not dampened enthusiasm for visitors like Dennis Peter.

San Diego Zoo Remains Open, But Uncertainty Remains
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

He drove down from Los Angeles to visit the Zoo with his son and fiancé after a double check to make sure the facility was even open.


“We weren’t sure how it was going to be. Did my research and we decided we were going to come and have a family day,” Peter said.

Peter and his family had plenty of company, even though the Zoo is limiting the number of people who can be in the park because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Some visitors said they were making a repeat visit since the Zoo reopened in June.

RELATED: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Visitors, Tourist Industry Hopes For Same

Imperial Beach resident Mark Jones was visiting for the second time in two days.


“There are signs posted everywhere, especially at the exhibits,” Jones said. “There are high-touch areas, so if you touch the glass, keep in mind to wash your hands after. There’s hand sanitizer everywhere and everyone’s wearing their masks.”

Those things are happening, in part, because the state-issued strict guidance in June for the facility to reopen.

And while zoo officials are happy to be operating, they concede that there’s been some confusion since the governor tightened public rules in July because infections were climbing.

Indoor zoos and museums had to close again under those new rules.

The San Diego Zoo is primarily an outdoor experience and it met all the safety guidelines so it could stay open.

“They see it on the web site, they’ve heard from other people, but still sometimes people really need that reassurance from a voice on the other end of the phone,” said San Diego Zoo Chief Marketing Officer Ted Molter.

The written guidelines are clear and they allow the zoo to stay open, but when the news was delivered it was a bit ambiguous.

Public statements and tweets did not make a distinction between indoor and outdoor zoos.

RELATED: San Diego International Airport Is Seeing More Passengers, But Numbers Still Low

And while zoo officials are happy to still be open, they also want to see other local attractions open, too.

“Seeing that hotels are open, seeing that there are activities on the beaches, and there are things for people, that live here as well as some folks that might come in from a distance, they can stay here safely. They can visit the zoo. They can visit the park and there are enough things for them to do,” Molter said.

Zoo officials hope the doors stay open in the coming weeks, but that decision will ultimately rest on state health officials.

If the surge of COVID-19 cases worsen, the zoo may be forced to close again.

Zoo officials hope that does not happen but they say they are ready if it does.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.