TAMPA, Fla. – 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 a 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 one-horned 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.”