The Dallas Zoo announced it would furlough 100 of its 400 full-time and part-time employees due to the financial strains brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The zoo has frozen at least 75 job openings, cut the pay of senior staff members by 15 percent, and furloughed a quarter of the staff to stay afloat after months of closure and a slow reopening. In addition to downsizing staff, the Dallas Zoo has announced that it will permanently close the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park and the Adventure Safari Monorail at the Zoo.
“We are all facing the harsh reality that the fallout of this global pandemic will be lasting and far reaching. At the onset of this pandemic, our entire organization pulled together quickly and enacted many measures that were beneficial. However, we are now faced with a very dim financial forecast and are at the point where we have to be fiscally responsible to protect the long-term future of the Zoo with these very difficult decisions,” said Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of Dallas Zoo, in a statement.
The zoo initially closed its doors on March 13, just ahead of what is typically its busiest season of the year. It received a Paycheck Protection Program loan in late April and $750,000 through an Emergency Operations Fund provided by donors and the community, but those funds were immediately expended–it costs a lot to maintain hundreds of animals, their habitats, and employee their caretakers.
The facilities reopened to the public in late May, and though there was an initial rush in ticket sales, business slowed again as COVID-19 case numbers had an uptick. It’s been slower since then. The zoo is projecting a revenue shortfall of at least 25 percent from normal revenue for the rest of the year and extending into 2021. So far, it’s seen more than $5 million in lost revenue since closing in mid-March.
Hopefully, these drastic measures can help the Dallas Zoo stick around, but depending on how the next few months go, there could be more changes lying ahead for the zoo.
“There is no roadmap for this recovery,” said Hudson, “And with so many external factors beyond our control, we have to make these difficult decisions in order to protect the Zoo’s mission while we look for opportunities for reinvention.”