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The San Diego Zoo & Safari Park will reopen to the public on June 20. Here’s what you can expect

More hand sanitizer stations have been installed at the San Diego Zoo in preparation for its June 20 reopening.
More hand sanitizer stations have been installed at the San Diego Zoo in preparation for its June 20 reopening to the public.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

There will be fewer people and more hand sanitizer pumps when both facilities reopen.

The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park will soon introduce a new species: people.

Both facilities, which have remained closed since March 16 due to COVID-19, will reopen to the public on June 20. A ‘soft’ reopening will begin on Sunday, which will be invite-only for members of San Diego Zoo Global, the umbrella organization for both facilities.

“We’re thrilled to once again welcome guests back to San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park,” said Paul Baribault, CEO for San Diego Zoo Global, in a statement. “There’s no better way to celebrate the occasion than to invite our faithful members and donors, who have been steadfast allies helping us by continuing to support our mission to save wildlife worldwide.”

Both facilities will operate a bit differently upon reopening to accommodate state and county health guidelines. Be sure to bring your mask and expect to see fewer people at each facility. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what you can expect.

Reduced capacity

San Diego Zoo Global members should keep an eye out for an email inviting them to either the Zoo or Safari Park between June 14 and June 19. During this soft reopening, Baribault says the organization will keep track of how long guests stay at each park and when they arrive and leave.

That information will help both facilities plan their reopening to the public on June 20. To help ensure social distancing, both the Zoo and Safari Park will initially operate at below 50 percent of normal capacity — no more than 5,000 people at the Zoo or 3,000 at the Safari Park at a given time.

This limit will be enforced on a first come, first serve basis. Once each facility reaches its limit, a guest waiting for entry won’t be admitted until another guest leaves. Each park will have signs on the roadside leading up to it indicating whether the facility has reached its limit; Baribault says the organization may also provide estimated wait times on its website.

You’ll need a facial covering to be admitted, in accordance with county rules, though there will be a small number of masks on hand for those who accidentally leave their mask at home.

You’ll also have to answer a health questionnaire before entry to ensure that you’re not sick. The Zoo and Safari Park don’t plan on checking guests’ temperatures, though they are doing so daily with their own employees.

Same animals, different rules

Once you’re in, you can expect to see nearly all the same animals as before — more than 6,500 species in total between both facilities. There are a few new additions, though — including a 3-month-old giraffe calf and a 1-month-old pigmy hippo. Life goes on for these animals, regardless of whether guests are watching.

Each park will have markings on the ground by animal viewing areas to help guests stand at least 6 feet apart. Zoo and Safari Park officials will circle by to enforce those rules in case, for example, a child unable to contain her excitement at seeing an orangutan for the first time forgets social distancing.

Spaces that crowd people together will remain off limits. The Zoo’s 4-D Theater will be closed, as will the various buses and trams that shuttle guests across both facilities — including the Skyfari Aerial Tram. Animal shows and programs that draw large crowds will be closed, too.

Most restaurants will be open, though dining will be carry-out. Souvenir shops will be open.

In other words, yes, you can still buy a panda plush.

For more information, visit zoo.sandiegozoo.org/reopen.


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