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Akron Zoo focused on animal care during pandemic

Posted at 5:05 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 18:49:40-04

AKRON, Ohio — Kristen Scaglione thinks her job is better than yours.

"As you can imagine, it's pretty awesome," she said. "We have a pretty awesome job...I basically come in to fan girl over all the animals."

Scaglione is a carnivore keeper at the Akron Zoo.

Some of the animals she cares for are the grizzly bears and red wolves.

"When you work with these animals, you really get to know each individual personality," she said.

These animals may not miss the visitors to the zoo but Scaglione does.

"Sometimes it can be a little disheartening," she said about the quiet zoo. "One of the other biggest reasons we come in is to share our animals with the public."

The Akron Zoo has been closed for more than a month.

"So we're very eager for people to come back and see all our animals."

More than 360,000 people visited the Akron Zoo in 2018.

An annual report on the zoo's website said 10% of the income for the zoo comes from admissions revenue. Without that money for the last month, Elena Bell said the zoo had to immediately look at the budget.

"We are definitely having to be creative with our budget," Bell said. "So we've had to cut a lot from our budget and from our plans."

But she said no money was taken from basic animal care.

"Some of the things that aren't really necessary right now we haven't been able to buy," Scaglione said. "Like, we haven't been able to buy new toys for the bears."

On the day News 5 visited, the two grizzly bear siblings - Cheyenne and Jackson - were rolling around their exhibit with barrels full of sticks and food.

"So as far as on our end, like on the animal care, we haven't had a lot of changes which has been amazing," she said.

Caring for the more than 700 animals at the zoo takes up 56% of the annual budget.

As of April 28, zoos were not part of the businesses set to reopen on May 1. But Bell said the board of directors at the zoo are not waiting to plan if the shutdown continues.

"We have many different plans," she said about plans that would be put in place based on hypothetical reopening dates.

Even though people are not coming through the doors at the zoo, keepers and educators there are doing "Lunch and Learns" on Facebook.