PHOTOS: They all masked for you: Audubon Zoo reopens after COVID-19 closure

No lion, New Orleans has missed its zoo. But on June 3, the Audubon Nature Institute re-opened the Audubon Zoo with safety measures in place. The facility is limited to 25% capacity and visitors must book an entry time on-line ahead of time.

by Michael DeMocker
June 14, 2020

No lion, New Orleans has missed its zoo. But on June 3, the Audubon Nature Institute re-opened the Audubon Zoo with safety measures in place. The facility is limited to 25% capacity and visitors must book an entry time on-line ahead of time. Once inside, the zoo now has a set path for visitors to follow through the exhibits to prevent bunching. In addition, hay bales and green painted paw prints on the ground around exhibits encourage social distancing. Indoor and interactive exhibits like the reptile house, the carousel and Cool Zoo remain closed as does Monkey Hill. The animals, however, appeared genuinely excited to see people for the first time in weeks.

Wednesday was also the first time for visitors to see the two male lions cubs in their habitat. Haji and Asani were born in January but had yet to be introduced to the exhibit when COVID-19 shut down the zoo. The zoo’s staff welcomed visitors individually as they made their way amongst the habitats. The nature institute’s Executive Vice President Laurie Conkerton took a shift on one of the Cool Zoo’s lifeguard chairs deployed on a pathway to help answer questions and encourage social distancing. “We look forward to reconnecting the community with the animals in our care,” said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “While our doors were closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19, Audubon’s dedicated staff continued to provide outstanding care for our animals and parks. Our guests have been dearly missed by the Audubon family and we look forward to welcoming you back.”

Michael DeMocker has been a photojournalist in New Orleans for over twenty years. He’s been the National Press Photographer Association’s Regional Photographer of the Year three times and loves photographing all things New Orleans. He lives Uptown with his wife, son, and two dogs of varying intelligence.

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