BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Zoo recently named a new President, and now, they’re getting some financial help for animal care.

Outside the polar bear habitat Wednesday morning, New York State Assemblyman Bill Conrad and Zoo CEO and President Lisa Smith, who served as the zoo’s interim president before getting the job permanently, announced a $53,000 state grant to assist with animal upkeep and husbandry.

“The zoo simply does not house and showcase animals; it allows the living wonders of our planet to serve as stewards of the environment,” Conrad said.

But it hasn’t been a walk in the park to make sure the animals are taken care of since COVID. Prior to the pandemic, Smith says zoo attendance was at roughly 500,000 per year. But since then, it’s dropped to about 400,000.

There isn’t one definitive answer as to why it’s dropped this much, Smith says, citing economic and environmental reasons for why people are staying home. Expenses are outpacing revenue, she says, with the decline in attendance widening the gap.

Encouraging people to visit, Smith says zoos are a place where animals, like the polar bear, thrive, protected from habitat loss and poaching. Smith says there’s always something new to see, too.

“With 700 animals, everything’s different every day,” she said.

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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.