The National Zoo & Aquarium has reopened and has been thrilled by the support of the Canberra community thus far, after high attendance over two long weekends. Business manager Russell Jackson, says the turnout has been encouraging, “We have had some really healthy crowds, there is a clear appetite for activities that get people out of the house and outdoors.”
The Zoo is trying to get to normal as soon as possible. All the exhibits are open, with some restrictions on numbers in the indoor areas. Animal encounters are still on hold for the moment, but Russell said you can expect them back soon. Russell highlighted that proper preparation had been key to reopening and suggest that business’ managers should be “walking through your establishment like you’re doing it for the first time. See it through visitors’ eyes.”
To keep patrons safe, they are ensuring that social distancing measures are upheld, have new signage, bollards, visual markers and extra staff for busy periods to supervise crowds. Russell commended the visitors thus far, “People have been fantastic and are self-policing themselves.”
Russell does confess that this year has indeed been a “trying and unique time. It has been a tough year for the Zoo as they were first impacted by the bushfire smoke that inundated Canberra which was quickly followed by the pandemic. “Zoo’s and wildlife parks are unique businesses.” Russell explained. “We can’t just switch off the lights and leave everything closed. Our wildlife requires the same care as always. Our costs are largely the same.” But he is still more than content to be at the Zoo and in the tourism industry, saying “I’m very happy here, there is never a dull moment. It’s a very dynamic place to work.”
The National Zoo & Aquarium are part of the 4Canberra initiative, an alliance of privately owned Canberra attractions consisting of Cockington Green Gardens, Go Boat Canberra and the National Dinosaur Museum. “It’s a nice fit between all of us. We complement each other.” 4Canberra is encouraging locals to get out and about and visit each attraction.
Community engagement is essential through the recovery process, and Russell believes strongly that Canberra business and residents should be supporting each other. “As Canberra residents ourselves, we are invested in the local industry and the community. Many of our Canberra institutions and icons have faced hardship, and it’s up to all of us to make sure they continue.”