Gan Matthews, News 9

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- Fifteen years after it opened, the Little River Zoo near Norman has closed to the general public.

The zoo, home to almost 400 animals, closed its doors on December 1. So, there are no more school classes, or school kids arriving to get an educational tour of the animals.

And that's all because the zoo has no cash.

"We're broke," Director Mickey Pierce said. "We've had to close our education department, which would be our tour guides, our gift shop, our office administration. We just didn't have the money to make the payroll."

Pierce said the non-profit zoo has seen donations dry up over the past year. As a result, the zoo is down to only 10 employees.

"I didn't even know about this place until a year ago. So it was already starting to go down in numbers of people here, visitors, and everything. But I'd like to see a lot of people come and see the animals. There's some great animals here, a lot of diversity," said Candace Blackwell, a zoo employee and recent zoology graduate from OSU.

For the immediate future, Little River Zoo will operate solely as an animal shelter. Donations, especially of food, are adequate to feed the animals for now. Some of them would probably not survive a move to another facility.

"If we had to close and to start moving animals, there's just not that many facilities that would probably want them," said Pierce.

Darwin, a small monkey, is a good example.

"He doesn't have all of his fingers. Kind of got some broken teeth. He's subject to strokes. So he probably wouldn't make the move," Pierce said.

Little River Zoo is still accepting donations for its animal sanctuary operations. Learn how you can help on the Little River Zoo's website.