ZooTampa Endures COVID Challenges, Ends Fiscal Year Ahead of Projections, Grateful for Community Support & Significant Accomplishments

ZooTampa Endures COVID Challenges, Ends Fiscal Year Ahead of Projections, Grateful for Community Support & Significant Accomplishments - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

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Sandra Torres, Communications Department

TAMPA, Fla. (October 19, 2020) – Despite navigating many COVID-related challenges the
past seven months, ZooTampa at Lowry Park reports finishing its fiscal year with a solid
financial performance and significant accomplishments. The Zoo begins its new fiscal year this
month with continued commitment to its mission-driven work while providing a safe outdoor
entertainment option for Bay-area residents.
“We started 2020 strongly and were on pace for a record year when the pandemic
impacted our entire community and necessitated our closing prior to our peak attendance
season. We had to manage prudently while prioritizing the safety of our employees, the public
and the 1,100 animals entrusted to our care,” said Joe Couceiro, CEO of ZooTampa.
Since the Zoo reopened in late May, it has modified operations to safely provide the
community with an outdoor, family-friendly place to connect with each other and enjoy
wildlife. By June, ZooTampa brought back all full-time furloughed employees, and despite a
slowdown in attendance in July when the community experienced a spike in reported COVID
cases, the summer season ended with the Zoo exceeding previous year performance, while
concurrently offering an enhanced safe environment and maintaining in-park volume at
comfortable levels.
The Zoo successfully replaced much of its lost gate revenue with donor contributions and
funds applied for through a PPP loan. Couceiro said the leadership team also worked hard to
reduce operational costs by 47 percent during the Zoo’s temporary closure, avoid any staff
layoffs and reopen with enhanced public safety measures so that it could safely finish the
shortened year with a positive net operating income that exceeded budget.
“It is important to acknowledge our community’s support though a strong membership
enrollment, wide-ranging donations to our Emergency Operating Fund including more than 800
new individual donors, as well as the assistance of the ZooTampa Endowment Foundation and
the David A. Straz, Jr. Foundation,” said Couceiro, adding “We are grateful for the guidance and
encouragement provided by Mayor Jane Castor, county officials and our board of trustees.”
Assessing the 2020 fiscal year, Couceiro noted numerous zoo accomplishments including:

  • The significant births of numerous endangered and vulnerable animals as part of the
    Species Survival Plan including the zoo’s seventh white rhino, its fourth greater onehorned rhino and its first binturong (also known as bearcat from South Asia).
  • Leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of manatees with 15 successful rescued animals returned to Florida waters.
  • The success and public appeal of seasonal events, including Creatures of the Night, Christmas in the Wild, ZooBrews and Dinos Alive, which connected prehistoric species to modern day wildlife found at the zoo.
  • The national premiere of Nat Geo WILD’s “Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa” season one in January and season two in July, which provided an unprecedented behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to care for some of the world’s most endangered and fascinating species.
  • The safe and successful hosting of 365 children during seven weeks of summer camps. The launch of ZT Saves which strategically brought together all of the Zoo’s conservation initiatives and contributions towards saving Florida wildlife and endangered species throughout the world.
  • The expansion of behind-the-scenes tours and signature encounters that safely connect guests and educates them about amazing animals.

“As we reflect on a challenging fiscal year 2020, we look ahead with optimism and reaffirm
our commitment to create animal experiences beyond the ordinary that help foster
connections with nature,” shared Couceiro. “We have exciting plans for fiscal year 2021 as we
look forward to continue to provide a place where families can get wild safely, introduce
amazing new species and up-close experiences and launch modified safe events that appeal to
the whole family.”

ZooTampa at Lowry Park is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable
organization committed to excellence in conservation, education, recreation and research. The Zoo is accredited by
the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is recognized as central Florida’s leading and most attended
zoological cultural institution. ZooTampa is an eight-time winner of the Certificate of Excellence award by
TripAdvisor (2010-2018) and is a leader in the rehabilitation and care of Florida species. The Zoo is located at 1101
W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours for select
events. For more information, visit www.zootampa.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter