KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Zoo Knoxville has seen an outpouring of community support after they put out a plea for help, and now county leaders are also hoping to help.
The zoo closed March 16 to help stop the potential spread of coronavirus, and every day since then, has lost an average of $22,500 a day that helped feed the animals and other operating expenses.
As of Wednesday, the community has donated almost $60,000 dollars.
Lisa New, President of Zoo Knoxville, said it's amazing to see how much the public cares about the zoo and it's animals.
"The community has stepped up in a huge way," she said. "It's very touching."
On Thursday, Knox Co. Mayor Glenn Jacobs urged the community to give if they could, but he also pledged his support.
Jacobs said he was going to propose to Knox County Commission that they loan Zoo Knoxville $500,000 from the county's hotel/motel fund.
That money can only be used for tourism-related activities, and Zoo Knoxville is the county's top tourist attraction. Jacobs said there was currently a $1.4 million surplus in that fund.
The zoo also has approached the city of Knoxville for help, according to spokesman Eric Vreeland. The city already provides $1.5 million in annual budget support.
The zoo's request will be considered, Vreeland said.
Zoo Knoxvlle operates as a 501c3, which means it is a non-profit. In general, 75 percent of those costs are covered by zoo visitation.
New said that all immediate food needs are being met and that taking care of the animals is a priority. They have about a three-month supply on hand and have lots of fruits and vegetables.
But there are other operating costs.
New said it usually takes $180,000 a week to run the zoo, and they'd love to reach that through this community giving campaign.
Here's how you can help. Go here, where you can make a donation to the Emergency Animal Relief Fund. New said you could also purchase admission tickets to the zoo online that will be good for a year, or purchase an annual pass.
While they are taking care of the animals, New said they are keeping their staffers safe as well. They are down to only critical care employees, so some workers are on temporary leave until they reopen.
Those who are working are on two separate shifts to keep physical contact to a minimum to prevent the spread of coronavirus.