Oakland Zoo struggles with setbacks, African elephant euthanized
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland Zoo lost a beloved elephant over the weekend, the latest blow to the century institution that has faced constant closures and is saddled with millions of dollars in storm-related lost revenue.
Since the beginning of the year, the zoo has been closed roughly 50 days, costing more than $2.5 million so far, officials said.
"I’ll tell you we’ve been tested," CEO Nik Dehejia said. "We’ve been tested as an organization, financially. It’s hard not to feel like somebody punches you in the gut."
The hits keep on coming for the zoo.
Staff was in mourning on Monday after an African elephant named Lisa had to be euthanized. She was 46 years old and had lived at the zoo for more than four decades.
Lisa suffered from degenerative arthritis for more than a decade. Despite therapy, medication and treatments, her care team made the difficult decision to ease her discomfort by humanely putting her down Sunday.
"Sometimes in life you have to let go," Dehejia said. "All we can do is alleviate pain and provide comfort."
But there’s no comfort with yet another storm on the way. The zoo will be closed Tuesday in anticipation of heavy rain and wind.
Last week, a large eucalyptus tree took out the zoo’s aviary and six exotic birds escaped. While five have since been captured, Diego, a pied crow is still missing.
Trees have toppled throughout the property with the zoo planning to remove more to prevent more mishaps or damage.
Dehejia said it is a long-term project and a costly endeavor.
"This is ongoing," he said. "We’re still recovering from storm damage. There are a lot of trees at the zoo either at risk of falling or we may not even know…they look healthy."
But major trouble began at the beginning of the year with the first atmospheric river. Glofari, the zoo’s lantern festival was canceled.
Buckets of rain caused a massive sinkhole near the main entrance, forcing the zoo to shut down for more than a month for major repairs.
"We get knocked down and we’re trying to just put one step in from of the other to get back up," Dehejia said.
Oakland voters approved Measure Y last November. That will allow the zoo to get an extra $12 million a year for the next 20 years to cover operating costs, facility upgrades and education programs. But the first round of funds are not available for another 8 to 12 months.
Those who want to support the zoo can consider making a donation or getting a zoo membership. A family of four can purchase an annual pass for $175.
"I know people are out there supporting us and rooting us on," Dehejia said. "I couldn’t be more thankful to the community overall."
Brooks Jarosz is a reporter for KTVU. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU