POWELL — In response to financial hardship resulting from mandatory closures and constraints in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium made the difficult decision to furlough 29 full- and part-time employees and eliminate 33 non-animal care positions across the zoo and The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center located in Cumberland, Ohio, that is managed by the zoo.
Employees were notified individually on Monday, and the organization changes are effective immediately. More than 50% of the zoo’s earned revenue is through admissions and other purchases such as food and gift shop sales, and a prolonged closure is having a significant financial impact on the organization. As the zoo is projecting a budget shortfall of at least $25 million for Fiscal Year 2020, the staff reductions are in addition to budget reductions made in March. At that time, the zoo significantly reduced its operating budget, including eliminating travel, implementing staff pay cuts, and reducing other expenses not related to animal care. The employees whose positions were eliminated will receive severance pay, and furloughed employees will continue to receive benefits.
“The zoo has been closed since March 16 due to this global pandemic, and while we are confident that we’ll reopen sometime this summer, we cannot predict when. With this uncertainly and budget pressures, we must take steps to be fiscally responsible and protect the long-term future of our institution,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf. “This is the hardest thing I’ve had to do as CEO. Our employees are some of the most dedicated and passionate people in the world’s zoo community.”
The zoo is normally open 363 days per year and continues to provide care to 10,000 animals, many of which are threatened and endangered species. “These are difficult times and we’ve had to make some tough, but necessary decisions, to ensure animal care is not compromised and to ensure the viability of this organization,” said Stalf. “We are looking forward to the day when the zoo reopens and we can once again welcome our guests from our central Ohio community, as well as from around the country.”
Zoo leadership will continue to monitor developments of the COVID-19 outbreak and follow guidance from federal, state, and local authorities to determine when the park will reopen. For continued updates, please follow the Zoo’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and visit us at ColumbusZoo.org.
Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.