By Marlee Ginter

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The pandemic has been eating away at the Sacramento Zoo, leaving it struggling to feed and care for all the animals.

Little Mila Gonzalez clutched the stuffed zebra she got from the zoo Thursday. It’s become one of her favorite places.

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“This is her first time being around other children, other babies,” said Rebecca Gonzalez.

Whether it’s seeing the giraffes, the big cats or the monkeys, many also love being able to feed the animals.  But all that food comes at a hefty price, especially when there are more than 500 animals to feed.

The Sacramento Zoological Society pays roughly $188,000 a month on feed and veterinary care, not including salaries for the city workers.

“People are still coming and they are still supporting the zoo, but it takes a little more than that. So we do know that they are struggling,” said Jody Ulich, the Sacramento Director of Convention & Cultural Services.

Ulich told CBS13 the Sacramento City Council approved funding of $1,129,000 for the Sacramento Zoo in the City’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020/21 Midyear Budget.

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“For me personally, it’s kind of my happy place.  If I need a place to go and kind of sit and contemplate and just see joy, I go to the zoo,” said Ulich.

Ulich isn’t the only one. Families with kids like Mila are happy to see the zoo getting some extra support.

“It’s nice. We get to come when I get off work. It’s local, so it’s great to support it, absolutely,” said Rebecca Gonzalez.

The pandemic has taken a bite out of revenue, at one point forcing the zoo to shut down and now only allowing 25% capacity.

“I’d pay out of pocket if they wanted it. I think it’s very important.  It’s a good place to learn.  It’s a good place to be for the family,” said Matt Laguer.

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Officials say a $100 donation pays to feed the zoo’s big cats for three days.