The New Normal: What zoos are doing for visitors, staff and animals safety


HONOLULU (KHON2) – We look at everyday business and places that have forced to adjust during the pandemic.

We visit a family favorite doing it’s best to adapt to the new normal.

For the residents at the Honolulu Zoo, it’s pretty much business as usual.

Or more accurately stated, it’s monkey business as usual.

But for the humans, especially those in charge of running this 42 acre gem, the re-opening a few weeks ago came with a full late of changes.

“It’s a little different especially for members and guests coming in,” said Linda Santos, Honolulu Zoo Director. “We created social distancing and people have to have a face mask. So I think it was a little awkward at the beginning. Now that they keep coming through the end of the house rules, I think it’s a little better.”

As part of those new house rules there are arrows painted on the ground to keep people moving in a one-way direction.

“The flow of traffic we’re trying to create a flow for people entering , where people are entering and exiting on one end of the zoo,” said Santos.

There’s also additional signage and cleaning stations around almost every corner.

“We created handwashing stations for people,” Santos shared. “If they’re leaning on a guard rail or they touch something they can wash their hands are use the hand sanitizer dispensers that are strategically placed throughout the zoo. We just want to make it safe.”

While masks are required upon entry and while touring the zoo, one area you do not have to wear one is where we were standing.

“Yes. Any of our great lawns, our concessions, eating, sit down areas that we takeoff your mask and relax in the shade and cool down,” said Santos. “Because we know it is hot.”

But when visiting the animals zoo officials ask that you keep your mask on, it is not just to keep the humans safe, but to protect the animals as well.

“There is a zoonautic disease aspect for the coronavirus,” added Santos. “We want to make sure we protect our staff and our animals.”

Lions, tigers are other large animals have tested positive for the virus in some mainland zoos.

Santos does not want to see that here.

“That is a concern,” she said. “So our staff has to take extra precaution when working with these types of animals. Wearing proper PPE. They try not to spend a huge amount of time working in those areas.”

But despite all the changes for both employees and gusets, Santos says business has been good since the facility opened nearly four weeks ago.

“It’s a great family place and it’s a great place for kids to come and burn off some of that steam,” Santos noted. “Even though the playground is closed because we cannot properly sanitize it. The great lawn, the kids can still run around picnic and enjoy. We want to make it safe for everybody coming to the zoo. But it’s open air and it’s sunny so it’s a good place to come and visit.”

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