The Zoo at Forest Park received a big boost Monday after it was announced that $125,000 in pandemic relief funding is on its way.

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The Zoo at Forest Park received a big boost Monday after it was announced that $125,000 in pandemic relief funding is on its way.

The zoo is a treasure in Springfield, enjoyed by many generations. With their doors open for 127 years, there has been a recent shift toward rescue efforts.

“I think it’s important to note that we are not a traditional zoo…We are now no longer working just here in our backyard. We are working with rehabbers and sanctuaries across the country to provide long term, permanent, safe, happy homes for all different types of animals,” said Sarah Tsitso, executive director of The Zoo at Forest Park.

Not only was The Zoo at Forest Park able to keep all of their employees staffed during the pandemic, but they were also able to provide homes for nearly 50 new rescue animals. Many of them required extra attention.

“The animals that we have here that require very special care, a lot of them have special diets, they require extra veterinary care, they require very special and expensive medications and without this funding, that would have been very difficult for us to maintain,” Tsitso noted.

Tsitso showed us around the grounds on Monday and pointed out how the $125,000 in pandemic relief funding will make a positive impact. The zoo’s educational efforts were put on pause due to the pandemic. It’s something this funding will help to restore and maintain.

“The zoo does immense numbers of educational and school-based programs both in Springfield and across our region. The zoo-on-the-go program, the zoo educational programs in public schools, my kids have benefited from those, so many other kids from across our region have benefitted from those as well,” said State Sen. Eric Lesser.

It’s something State Rep. Carlos Gonzalez said is crucial after the pandemic kept us locked up and kept us apart.

“To be able to experience that personal experience that many of our urban kids don’t get, so this is more than a zoo. This is more than a sanctuary, this is a destination for Springfield and also, this the heart and soul of Springfield and Springfield is the heart and soul of western Mass.,” Gonzalez explained.

The Zoo at Forest Park is now open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weather permitting.

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