Utica Zoo launches online Kids Academy

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UTICA — As a precautionary measure to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, and in an effort to protect the health and safety of their animals, visitors, volunteers, and staff, the Utica Zoo closed the facility to the public. 

But while all on-grounds programs and events have been temporarily suspended, the zoo staff in the animal care and facilities departments are on grounds daily caring for animals, sanitizing the grounds and working towards reopening the facility when appropriate.

While these are unusual times, the Utica Zoo has committed to provide virtual programs and a glimpse into the zoo’s daily wonder. As a “place with a purpose”, the Utica Zoo can provide several fun, engaging and educational tools for the thousands of homebound families. The animals are full of life and, as spring unfolds with longer days and gentler temperatures, there are so many scenes to witness and enjoy; even if remotely, zoo officials say. Adding that they have launched online programs, photos and videos to bring the Utica Zoo into homes around the Mohawk Valley, country and globe. 

Beginning Monday, the Utica Zoo started “Uti-kaZoo” — a free online kids academy geared for public, private and home-schooled children from both pre-school and elementary settings. Newly developed as a response to last week’s COVID19 precautions and region-wide school closings, the academy will offer engaging activity-based programs which include animals in action, stories, crafts, and do-at-home action items to heighten awareness about conservation and behaviors to protect animal and plant species.

By 10 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday new programs will be posted while life is being lived online. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, additional fun posts, activities and animal stories will be featured. All of the Uti-kaZoo programs and digital content can be found on the Zoo’s social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as on their website atwww.uticazoo.org/kazoo. 

Although open throughout the year, the Utica Zoo’s peak season is from April 1 to October 31, and it gains most of its annual revenue to care for the animals during those months through admission, gift shop sales, animal adoptions/encounters, and events. The operating budget requires revenue at an average of $5,000 per day to fund the current operational expenses such as staffing, animal diets for over 200 exotic and domestic animals, medicine/vitamins/supplements, hay and veterinary services as well as expenses such as electricity, heat, and more.

With the zoo being closed and Spring events being postponed, those revenue streams will bring zero dollars to the zoo. The zoo says that there are still many ways the community and businesses can help: Memberships can be purchased and renewed, and monetary sponsorships for programs such as Kids’ Academy, animal exhibits both current and those planned for the 2020 season, annual zoo events and general donations toward what is needed most.

Monetary donations to the Utica Zoo are tax-deductible. Sponsorships and contributions of $500 and above are eligible for some deliverables, people may contact Andria Heath at a.heath@uticazoo.org or Heather Wasielewski at heather.waselewski@uticazoo.org for more information.

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