Rayna Roark ran around outside the goats enclosure at Applegate Zoo on Tuesday afternoon as her mother, Alissa Roark, watched from a nearby bench.
An overly aggressive white llama, which was standing with the goats, tried to bite and shove the goats aside as the 1-year-old tried to feed the animals.
Roark, who lives in Atwater, said she brings her daughter to the zoo a couple times a year. "So far she really likes the cat," Roark said, smiling and speaking of the domesticated feline that roams around the zoo grounds.
In an effort to assist the city with operating costs of the zoo, the Merced Zoological Society will pay 40 percent of the Applegate Zoo budget for the current fiscal year to the city of Merced. It's the annual agreement the society has with the city, which was approved by the Merced City Council on Monday night.
The city operates the zoo and partners with the society for help with funding as well as other projects there, said Lindsey Johnson, a recreation supervisor.
She said the city was seeking the additional support from the society so the zoo wouldn't have to rely on the city's general fund as much.
The general fund for the 2011-12 fiscal year will provide $922,423 to Parks and Community Services, which includes funding for the zoo, according to Brad Grant, city finance officer.
The general fund deficit for 2011-12 is still estimated to be $2.3 million, Grant said in an email.
The society will have to pay $80,000 out of the zoo budget of a little more than $200,000 and continue to collect entrance fees. It will include $15,000 of the profits from the zoo gift shop and soda machines, according to John Carlos, vice president of the society.
Last summer, the zoo raised its admission prices in the hopes of generating more revenue, but visitor and volunteer numbers dropped, while revenue increased. Now, children under 5 are admitted free, 5- to 15-year-olds are charged $2, 16- to 61-year-olds pay $3, and seniors 62 and older pay $1.50. Previously, the entrance fees at the zoo were children under 3 were free, $1.25 for ages 3 to 10, $1.75 for ages 11 to 60 and, 75 cents for those 61 and older.
"Total attendance dropped in half, but the amount of revenue went up by about a fifth," said Carlos, who has worked as a volunteer at the zoo for more than two decades. He added that revenue went up because of an admission price increase.
In the first six months after the admission price increase last year, he noted that visitor numbers dropped from 29,000 in 2010 to 15,400 in 2011. During the same amount of time, he said the total admission fees went from $24,000 to $31,000.
Carlos anticipated the city would ask for more money for next year. If that happens, Carlos said, he would make the rounds of the service organizations in town and ask for donations.
David Briones, who was hired on as an employee in March, said the zoo gets a lot of visitors when the weather is nice. Briones was cleaning out the cougar's cage Tuesday and added that the public likes to come to the zoo because they're impressed with the peacocks, "Mac" (the cougar) and other animals.
"They get to see wildlife you don't see every day," he said.
Those interested in volunteering or who want more information about the zoo can call (209) 756-4014. Applegate Zoo is celebrating its 50th anniversary at 1 p.m. April 29.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.