ST. LOUIS – The Emerson Children’s Zoo is temporarily closing for several years as the St. Louis Zoo works to reimagine the 3.5-acre area.
The Children’s Zoo will remain open with free admission through the end of October. In the meantime, a temporary dinosaur exhibit called Dinoroarus will open in its place in spring 2021 as the zoo works on new plans for the area.
The Children’s Zoo reopened with additional safety measures this summer after large venues were shut down due to COVID-19.
“It was a heart-wrenching decision to close the Children’s Zoo, however, safety is our
highest priority,” writes St. Louis Zoo President Jeffrey P. Bonner. “The Children’s Zoo was designed for high-touch and interactive experiences, which is not conducive to a COVID or post-COVID environment.”
This children’s zoo has been a mainstay for at the St. Louis Zoo for 50 years as a hands-on, high-touch interactive experience. Unfortunately, such an exhibit is not conducive to the COVID era.
“This was really a heart-wrenching decision for me. It’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my 30-plus years working at zoos but we just couldn’t do what we were doing now safely,” said St. Louis Zoo Director Michael Macek. “Right now, the children’s zoo is so focused on intimate contact and interaction and even though now we have reopened the space, it’s a passive experience. There’s no engagement at all with the families and with children to the animals.”
Macek said they were already planning on redeveloping the children’s zoo but the pandemic moved up the schedule. He said they hope to reopen the children’s zoo in three to five years.
Animals living at the children’s zoo—sheep, alpacas, burrows, and pot-bellied pigs—are in the process of being relocated to other parts of the St. Louis Zoo for the safety of visitors, staff, and the animals. The Tasmanian devils will not be moved at this time.
A St. Louis Zoo spokesperson said plans are underway for the temporary Dinoroarus exhibit, which will include 15 different groupings of animatronic dinosaurs, munching on the lush vegetation of the area that is currently the Children’s Zoo.
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