ESCONDIDO, Calif. — A local nonprofit and “living museum” in Escondido is struggling to keep the lights on amid skyrocketing energy costs. In their case, lights mean survival for the hundreds of animals in their care.

EcoVivarium is home to more than 300 rescue animals that require a high level of care to stay healthy. The ability to get this energy bill paid is so important because for many of them even 24 hours without heat could be deadly.

The museum has been making tough decisions like turning down the temperature by just a few degrees or alternating who gets a heat lamp.

“It was running $3,000 to $3,700 a month, which is a big bill. The estimates SDG&E is giving us put us at $6,400 for the bill for this month and that’s with all these energy-saving efforts going in,” said Susan Nowicke, founder of EcoVivarium.

COVID caused an 18-month closure for museums and a more than $30,000 backlog of energy bills in addition to the monthly bill, originally due Friday.

“They’ve given us a five-year payment plan, but we still have the big bill. They also gave us a little bit more time until February 2,” Nowicke said. 

The nonprofit has been educating kids and caring for these animals since 2008 and they now need the community’s help to continue.

“We are the last hope for many of them. The shelters are not designed to taking these exotics,” Nowicke said. 

Ecovivarium’s latest challenge is that any funds donated to GoFundMe are being tied up for 45 days with processing time. There is more than $9,000 that cannot be touched until end of February.

“Without financial support, we are not going to be able to meet the obligations that are before us,” Nowicke said.

With Feb. 2 rapidly approaching, EcoVivarium is switching over to a special fundraising site tailored specifically for nonprofits.