Visitors no longer will be allowed to wander the zoo grounds after closing hours, the Oklahoma City Zoo trust decided Wednesday afternoon. The zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer, but visitors have been able to keep exploring the zoo until dusk, spokeswoman Tara Henson said.
Eventually, only staff will be allowed to stay after the zoo closes. The policy will take effect when new printed materials and signs are ready, probably in spring, she said. The policy shift will make the zoo safer, Henson said. After the zoo closes, fewer staff members and security officers are on the grounds. "It wasn’t cost-effective for us to staff up to the level for us for a worst-case scenario like an animal escape,” she said. Zoo finance officials expect the change will trim revenue about 1 percent, Henson said. After-hours visitors often use vending machines and pay admission at the last minute. "We have to look at revenues,” she said. "But when you get down to it, it’s about safety.” Prohibiting after-hours visitors is a national trend among zoos, she said. This will not affect catering and special events outside business hours.
When you get down to it, it’s about safety.”