ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After more than four months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biopark zoo will open its outdoor exhibits. On Friday, the zoo will open for Biopark members only.
On Wednesday the zoo will open to the general public. The zoo is calling the community’s response to the news ‘overwhelming.’
“We really, really have been waiting to get the zoo open, the outdoor exhibits only. It’s incredibly exciting to know that we’re going to be able to open our doors and seeing our community coming back and watching them watch the animals that they’ve come to love and know so well over the years, we’re really excited,” Stephanie Stowell, Acting Director the Biopark, said.
“We’re really excited. We love the zoo, we go every year. Sometimes we go in the winter sometimes we go in the summer, but we do spend a lot of time there,” Nichelle Burks, a former Biopark member, said.
“We missed the zoo a lot this summer,” Angela Alonen, a Biopark member, said. “We were almost going every day before the pandemic started.”
The excitement is already being reflected in ticket sales. The Biopark is selling tickets by time slot online to avoid large crowds at the entrance gates and at the exhibits.
Hundreds of people have already bought tickets. According to zoo officials, the morning slots for the week of member visitation only nearly sold out in the first hour of tickets being available for purchase.
The Biopark has 150 tickets available for each half-hour time slot. It says this allows for a maximum of 600 people to be in the park at any given time. It estimates the park will see a maximum of 2,000 visitors a day, compared to the usual 6,000 visitors pre-pandemic. There will not be time limits on guests’ visits but capacity will be monitored.
“Not only are we going to be monitoring entrance numbers, we’re also going to be monitoring exit numbers. So, we’ll know at any moment, precisely how many people are in the facility. And that will allow us to gauge whether or not we might have to ask a couple people to wait for a few minutes while we let other people out. I mean, it’s not dissimilar to going to the grocery store these days,” Stowell said. “We hope to not have to hold folks up in line. It may happen, but we’ll be set up to make sure that they’re informed and that they can get in as fast as they can because we know they’re itching to get in.”
The park also has other safety protocols in place like having one-way route guests will follow throughout the park. It’s also requiring everyone to wear masks. Stowell said one of the biggest challenges will be making sure everyone follows COVID-safe practices like keeping six feet apart.
“I can only imagine how people are going to react when they see the polar bears for the first time. If you’ve been to the Biopark you know the polar bear exhibit’s viewing area is pretty small. So, it’s going to hard for people to remember they have to maintain their distance and they’re just going to have to be patient and wait their turn to be able to get up to get those very great views of all the animals they’ve been waiting to see,” she said. “That will be the biggest challenge, is managing people’s expectations so that they get to see what they want to see while also helping everyone have a really great experience.”
For now, the indoor exhibits like the Reptile Building and Penguin Chill will be closed. The carousel and the trains will also be closed.