Riverbanks Zoo reopens with new reservation requirement

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina zoo has reopened after being closed for more than two months because of the coronavirus.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia welcomed back its first guests Saturday, but with much different rules.

Visitors now must make a reservation for a specific time when they buy their tickets so the zoo can control how many people are inside, zoo spokeswoman Susan O’Cain said in a statement.

Riverbanks Zoo is requiring all employees to wear face masks and is strongly encouraging visitors to wear them too, O’Cain said.

All outdoor displays will be open and several indoor attractions will also be open with limits on capacity, including the aquarium, birdhouse and giraffe feeding station, O’Cain said.

The tram service between the zoo and gardens will not run, but visitors can either walk down the tram parkway or drive around to the gardens as long as they have their ticket and reservation, O’Cain said.

The zoo closed for the pandemic on March 16, only allowing workers inside who care for animals before preparing to reopen, O’Cain said.

The closure cost the zoo $5 million during its busiest season. The zoo laid off 300 of its more than 500 employees – mostly part timers in guest relations and at attractions – and is planning to bring back about 75 of those workers, O’Cain told The State newspaper.

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