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Wildlife Safari opening draws thousands of visitors

Posted at 6:45 PM, Mar 27, 2020

ASHLAND, Neb. (KMTV) — The Henry Doorly Zoo has been closed for more than a week now to stop large gatherings of people. The zoo also offers another venue where you don't have to get out of your car to see some animals, and it opened on Friday.

“It’s busier than we even anticipated," said Dan Cassidy of the Wildlife Safari.

He adds people were lined up at the gates before venue opened, and traffic was steady all day.

“We wanted to give the community an opportunity to get out and see some animals and get out of their houses a little bit but still be safe," said Cassidy.

He added more than 3,000 people showed up to the park Friday. March 27th was the scheduled day for opening of the park. It allows people to stay in their cars and look at animals like Elk, Buffalo, and Deer from a distance.

“We thought about whether we could do this and we can were one of the very few if you look at all the zoos and aquariums in the US were one of just a very few that can open and still meet all the local and state and federal guidelines if people just stay in their cars,” said Dennis Pate, Zoo Director.

The park made changes in response to coronavirus concerns. People are advised to stay in their vehicles. Hiking trails and the gift shop were people could gather are closed. Only one family at a time are advised to use the restrooms, and staff cleans them often. It will work, if people follow the rules.

“We’re trying to do a good thing here and hope people don’t spoil it," said Pate.

Lots of people were staying thanks to staff for opening the venue to give them something different to do.

“I think people are happy to get out and people coming in and kids especially leaving are waiving at us and saying thanks for being open so we just wanted to give back to the community a little bit," said Cassidy.

The safari is open from 9-5, and if everything goes according to plan the zoo hopes it will stay open until November. Zoo members can get into the safari for free through April 30th.