Visitors to El Paso’s recently reopened zoo are getting to meet some new animals that settled in while the zoo was closed for the pandemic.
“The cougars came in as cubs, two little bitty cubs. Now they are full grown cats,” said Zoo Director Joe Montisano.
The popular destination for El Paso families reopened at 50 percent capacity in February. That’s 2,500 visitors a day. Montisano says that he expects the zoo will be operating at 75 percent capacity in a few weeks.
Visitors are required to follow safety protocols when entering the zoo, such as wearing face coverings and social distancing.
“Our main concern is keeping the guest safe, the staff safe, and our animals safe as well,” says Joe Montisano, director of El Paso Zoo.
According to Elpasozoo.org and Montisano, indoor buildings and activities such as the train, carousel, splash pad, and the ropes course will remain closed, as they are almost impossible to clean and disinfect. The train and carousel are expected to be open around Memorial Day or in early June.
The zoo’s Passport Café is closed but visitors can still get a bite to eat at the Grasslands Café, which has limited seating. Guests can also bring their own food and beverages as long as they don’t bring glass containers or straws, which can be harmful to the animals.
Zoo visitor Jose Sotelo appreciates the public health efforts at the facility.
“We should be protecting ourselves, wearing the mask and still using hand sanitizer. I notice some things have been closed but I know it’s for the safety of everybody,” Sotelo said.
Montisano recommends visitors wanting the best experience should come early in the day before it gets too crowded.
“People need to come back to the zoo, come see us. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a great place to walk around,” he said.
The zoo is open 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekends. It will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for cleaning.
For more information about the zoo’s new operation hours and regulations, visit elpasozoo.org.