Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs is offering a $ 500,000 loan from the county to help the Knoxville Zoo survive its closure during the coronavirus pandemic.

Knoxville Zoo has been closed to the public since March 16, when it voluntarily closed before the local government ordered the closure of some businesses to help control the spread of COVID-19.

Every day the zoo turns away visitors during this busy spring season, it lacks about $ 22,500 which directly supports the animals, according to the zoo’s financial reports. The zoo is a non-profit organization and 75% of its daily operating funds come from the sale of tickets, annual passes, events and educational programs, the release said.

“Despite the fact that the people are not there, the animals are. But the income is not,” Jacobs said at a press conference at the zoo Thursday morning.

“Animals must be fed and animals must be cared for.”

Jacobs said he will bring forward a resolution at the next Knox County committee meeting on Monday to provide the loan through the County Hotels / Motels Fund, which is earmarked for tourism-related initiatives. The fund currently has a surplus of $ 1.4 million, the mayor said.

County officials said a repayment plan would be finalized later.

The zoo, which is recognized as Knoxville’s top tourist attraction, contributed an estimated $ 22 million to the local economy last year, said Lisa New, president and CEO of Zoo Knoxville.

She described the association’s current difficulties as an “emergency financial situation”.

Jacobs joined New in urging Knox County residents to contribute to a emergency relief fund for animals as well as.

The zoo’s supply of fresh fruit and other food is full, New says. Residents can, however, support animals more, but by contributing to pruning trees and clippings, also known as grazing.

Each of the zoo’s elephants typically eat between 200 and 300 pounds of grazing per day, she said.

Residents are asked to contact the zoo for more details on what is needed.

Those who want to help can donate to the zoo’s emergency relief fund at Tickets and annual passes can also be purchased on the website for use after the zoo reopens. Tickets will be usable for the remainder of 2020 and annual passes will remain valid for one year from the date of reopening.

Meanwhile, zoo staff deemed essential to operations continue to report to work every day. The zoo, which is involved in endangered species conservation work, also posted videos on Facebook to take viewers behind the scenes with gorillas, cockatiels, elephants and other animals.

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