Possible Budget Cuts Worry Micke Grove Zoo Staff, Visitors

LODI -- With eight zookeepers to 150 animals at Lodi's Micke Grove Zoo, the zoo's curator says they're already understaffed and with potential budget cuts their staff will be devastated.

Nicole Girling and her two small daughters visited the critters on Tuesday. Girling and her daughters enjoy the zoo.

“They can learn about everything and she enjoys seeing the animals," Girling said.

Tending to the animals is a labor-intensive job that zoo curator Avanti Mallapur says could get even harder.

"If staff are overworked, they can make mistakes where they can lose their lives," Mallapur said. "We have read in the newspapers how keepers have lost their lives."

Mallapur says she recently got word that San Joaquin County could be slashing the zoo’s budget, meaning their staff of nine would go down to four.

“We were horrified because what comes to my mind and every staff member’s mind is staff safety, animal safety," she said.

Mallapur says her staff is already working overtime.

“That sounds horrible because it already seems like it’s understaffed," Girling said.

While Mallapur says jobs and safety are on the line, she says there must be a better way so that staff, animals and families can enjoy this zoo for years to come.

“It concerns me deeply. It concerns all animal care staff deeply, that their lives are going to be far more unsafe because this is a labor-intensive job," Mallapur told FOX40.

The county did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. The Board of Supervisors is set to discuss the budget next week.

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