Caring for animals when the zoo is closed

Caring for animals when the zoo is closed

A Q&A with curator Bob Lee

The Oregon Zoo is closed temporarily, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. To the animals who call the zoo home, though, it's nothing out of the ordinary. We spoke to Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo's animal-welfare staff, to learn more about how keepers care for animals when the zoo is closed.

Is it normal for the zoo to close temporarily?

Every so often, because of weather or safety concerns, the Oregon Zoo will close to the public. When that happens, care staff still come in to the zoo to make sure all the animals have their needs met, just like any other day. That includes keepers, veterinarians, and anyone else whose job includes directly caring for the animals here.

Is the zoo prepared for a closure like the one happening now?

The zoo does a lot of preparation for emergency situations or weather situations. Just like in winter closures, the staff is here taking care of the animals, making sure they have a great day. We keep plenty of food, water and medicine on hand for every animal in our care. We also have backup generators and contingency plans for power outages, extreme weather events, or anything else that might affect daily operations. The welfare and safety of our animals is a top priority and we work to make sure they're taken care of no matter what happens.

Do the animals still have access to their indoor areas?

When the zoo closes it's not really any different for the animals. We want to make sure they have the same opportunities to enjoy their indoor and outdoor habitats, the same enrichment, the same interactions from the staff that they look forward to. Behind the scenes, our staff is working really hard to make sure our animals don't see anything change in their lives.

What if an animal needs medical attention?

Our veterinary care staff is here every day, and available 24 hours a day. Though we don't anticipate any additional healthcare needs, we're prepared to treat any animal that needs medical attention, just like we are every day.

How can people help the zoo?

The staff at the Oregon Zoo are so dedicated. 365 days a year, they're here. And throughout everything that's going on, we always put the animals first. For anyone looking to help, the biggest way to make a difference right now is to become a member, renew your membership or make a donation. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on ticket sales, memberships and donations to operate—even when the zoo is closed to visitors. Your support now is more important than ever.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

Media contact: 

Hova Najarian | 503-220-5714 |

Kelsey Wallace | 503-220-5754 |