WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Zoo animals in Watertown no longer have visitors.
Zoo New York at Thompson Park closed indefinitely to the public on Friday, October 27, following a decision made by the Thompson Park Conservancy.
A total of five full-time employees, six part-time workers and four seasonal employees will be laid off due to the closure. The zoo cited continued financial difficulties for the decision to shut down.
“The zoo hasn’t fundamentally changed in 20 years,” Executive Director Larry Sorel said. “There’s no new attraction because we haven’t been able to afford to build new attraction. With no new attraction, attendance starts slipping because it’s been it’s a ‘been there, done that, why go back again?'”
All animals will remain at the Zoo for now as the remaining mainly encompass zookeepers.
However, Sorel feared for the future of these animals. Zoo New York will have to decide if it can reopen by late winter.
Sorel said this is all based on how much funding the Zoo’s Conservancy receives from the City of Watertown.
“We’re in a position where we will receive only a small portion of our budget from local government,” he explained. “In today’s world, that just doesn’t work.”
“If things don’t change, then we have to have a plan,” Sorel added. “Either give it to the city and help them with the transition to either operating or closing. And if it’s closing, we’re looking at 6 to 9 to maybe 12 months for placing animals.”
Zoo New York is now looking to the community for support. Sorel said over the next several months, the organization hopes that community members will voice their opinions to the Watertown City Council.
This will ultimately determine if the Zoo and its dozens of animals stay in the North Country.
“The zoo buildings, the land, et cetera, they’re all owned by the City,” Sorel said. “We encourage people to exercise their right in democracy, to speak to the city and express their opinions. We’d like them to be positive, but whatever your feelings are, let the City know what you think the future of the Zoo should be.”
Zoo New York has been an established zoo at Watertown’s Thompson Park since 1921.