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Here’s how Phoenix Zoo’s Fernando the sloth became star fundraiser

PHOENIX – In a world turned upside-down, perhaps it’s only appropriate that the Phoenix Zoo’s newest star fundraiser is a sloth.

Fernando may be slow, but he’s become a top earner for the zoo while it’s closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the two-toed sloth joined Cameo, a video-sharing platform where people pay for celebrity shoutouts, the zoo has received 150 requests for a personalized clip. His popularity let the zoo boost his fee from $25 to $50.

“I think we’ve gotten more creative, kind of thinking a little bit outside the box. We’re trying things we never have before,” said Bert Castro, the Phoenix Zoo’s president and CEO.

Despite 4-year-old Fernando’s best efforts, the zoo has been losing $80,000 a day since shuttering March 18, Castro said.

The facility has been approved for $2.7 million in loans under the federal program and has raised hundreds of thousands online for its 3,000 animals.

Castro believes behind-the-scenes Facebook Live videos make people feel more connected to the zoo. In the past month, viewership has spiked 350%, and its Instagram following is growing.

Fernando’s Cameo appearances may be a tiny boost, but “it’s so popular we’ll continue it for as long as we can,” Castro said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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