Animal care specialist Rebecca Smith feeds the spider monkeys at the Micke Grove Zoo in Lodi on Friday, June 26, 2020.

Families wanting to get out of the house as the San Joaquin County slowly reopens its amenities and economy will have one more place to return to later this month.

The San Joaquin County Parks and Recreation Department announced this week that the Micke Grove Zoo will have a grand reopening on Oct. 26, with enhanced protocols and procedures in place to ensure the health and safety of guests, staff and animals.

“While this time away from our guests has been difficult for our animal residents and zoo staff, we have taken advantage of the closure opportunity to ensure that all animals have safe and well-functioning exhibits and living areas that would normally be more difficult to achieve when open to the public,” parks and recreation administrator Judy Vasbinder said. “Many of these improvements are not visible to guests, but they ensure that our animals are receiving a high standard of care.”

Some of the improvements recently made at the zoo include investing in structural improvements for the animals, deep cleaning of animal exhibits and large areas, and creating a presentation area to allow for animal ambassador encounters.

Zoo staff will be conducting annual exams for all animals and implementing training programs with many species to improve their health and quality of life. Visitors might catch a glimpse of a training session during a visit, the department said.

In addition, staff will be taking extra safety precautions due to COVID-19 — such as masking and wearing personal protective equipment — to ensure the health and well-being of the animals, especially since some species are susceptible to the virus.

A new addition to the zoo’s collection will also be introduced during the grand reopening, the department said.

The zoo will be open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Oct. 26 to Nov. 1. The first 25 guests each day during that time will receive a free Micke Grove Zoo face mask. The zoo will maintain those hours from Nov. 2 to Feb. 23, but will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

A maximum of 75 guests will be allowed in the zoo at one time to ensure proper social distancing, and masks will be required for all guests older than 2 years of age. An increased number of handwashing and sanitizing stations will be located throughout the zoo.

“While things won’t look exactly the same for the time-being, just having the opportunity to visit the zoo and interact with the animals brings true joy to families and makes things feel a little more normal during this stressful time,” said Chairwoman Kathy Miller of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. “The zoo is a very special place which provides a safe outdoor experience that is family friendly, where people can relax, learn, connect with nature and find ways to support the Zoo’s mission to conserve and enrich wildlife.”

Micke Grove Zoo is home to over 170 individual animals representing over 51 different species including mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and invertebrates representing six of the world’s seven continents. Many of the species are endangered or threatened in the wild.

The zoo is also home to a variety of animals native to California, such as the golden eagle. These animals have been injured and rescued from the wild and are non-releasable.

For more information, visit www.mgzoo.com or call 209-331-7400.

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