The various teams at both the Sydney zoo and the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo have been set up to protect them from each other, and to avoid losing whole groups of staff.
Everyone critical to operations is on separate shifts, operating in different spaces and taking lunch at alternating times.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work making sure the proper practices are in play to minimise transmission of the disease,” Mr Kerr said.
For Taronga, the visitors coming to the zoo are the tip of the iceberg. The hospital and the science and conservation work need to be maintained.
“We rely on our visitors to pay for the wildlife hospital and our keepers, and we’re still looking for support for our Taronga Foundation. We’re looking forward to having everyone back as quickly as possible,” he said.
“It’s up to every one of us, not just the healthcare system, to make sure Taronga is back open to the public.”
Mr Kerr said that people would be surprised at the relationships the zookeepers had with the animals, and that Taronga TV would enable audiences to see a different side of what work goes on at both zoos.
The schedule will include talks and shows by keepers, live-animal streams, and behind-the-scenes peeks at what the animals and staff get up to when the zoo is closed.
Resources will also be available for teachers and parents who are looking for educational content.
“Our education team is working overtime – we’ve got really interesting stuff and hopefully it’s a really valuable tool for the whole family,” Mr Kerr said.
Most staff would be retained in different roles if their frontline jobs are not available, with the rest moving to other branches of government work.
“It’s a massive task, looking after 4500 animals across the two zoos,” Mr Kerr said.
“Some workers may go and assist other parts of the government, but a vast majority have been redeployed across other roles in the zoo. It’s really important that we keep everyone employed.
“Running Taronga TV is going to be a big job; as we find our rhythm, we’ll need a lot of workers.”
Environment Minister Matt Kean said Taronga TV was a fantastic initiative.
“During this challenging time, while our kids (and big kids) are doing the right thing and staying at home, it is great that their visit to the zoo can still go ahead,” he said.
“I hope everyone takes the opportunity to connect and share in the great stories that are Taronga’s unique wildlife. Taronga TV will keep the zoo’s magic alive for all to see.”
Mr Kerr said that he hoped that the project could distract people from the COVID-19 crisis.
“We can bring some opposition to the constant negative vibes out there. It’s really important to take breaks from all that, which I think Taronga can provide.
“I genuinely think this can be a bit of a game changer for how we connect people with wildlife.”
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Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.