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Why is the Alexandria Zoo still closed?

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 7:24 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - It’s not the sign many want to see when driving down Masonic Drive in Alexandria: “temporarily closed” written on the marquee of the Alexandria Zoo sign.

The Alexandria Zoo has been closed since August after the facility took a beating from Hurricane Laura. But months later, why is the zoo still closed?

Dr. Max Lakes is new in town. He has been leading over the unusually quiet zoo since taking over as Zoo Director 12 weeks ago. During his short tenure, there have been no customers.

“It has been a very interesting time,” said Dr. Lakes. “We are working on making sure that we have a safe plan to open up with COVID. Making sure we can sanitize everything, making a plan with the mayor and his administration so that the guests, staff and animals are as safe as possible.”

It’s Mayor Jeff Hall’s call. His spokesperson, Jim Smilie, told KALB that, “The mayor is concerned about being able to keep everything clean and people distanced. It’s hard to do that with a small staff and with the construction folks that are working. He prefers to err on the side of caution.”

Alexandria City Councilman At-Large Jim Villard told us via text that, “I’d like to open, but it’s the mayor’s call.”

We asked Dr. Lakes why they are deciding to keep the zoo closed even though COVID-19 restrictions allow them to be open.

“To make sure it’s the safest way possible, over the holidays with the numbers spiking,” said Dr. Lakes.

What about our neighbor zoos? KALB reached out to Monroe’s Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo, and it is still open with only indoor exhibits shut down. The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is also open with mitigation efforts in place.

“While I know it’s very frustrating for many, it’s also wonderful because it shows how much the community loves the zoo,” said Dr. Lakes.

So, it’s a wait and see to know when you’ll get to see.

”So, there’s no timeline?” KALB’s Steven Maxwell asked.

“At this time, no,” Dr. Lakes said.

Dr. Lakes told us they have kept all 29 of their employees and they are continuing to work. KALB also reached out to the “Friends of the Alexandria Zoo” Board President, Susan Bowers, about membership fees that were paid last year. So far, KALB has yet to hear back from her.

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