The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will furlough 29 full- and part-time employees and eliminate 33 positions unrelated to animal care across the zoo and the Wilds in Cumberland, according to an April 28 news release.

Employees were notified individually April 27, and the changes are effective immediately, the release said.

More than half of the zoo’s earned revenue is through admissions and other purchases such as food and gift-shop sales, and the prolonged closure – since March 16 – is having a significant financial impact on the organization, the release said.

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, officials said.

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, officials said.

The employees whose positions were eliminated will receive severance pay, and furloughed employees will continue to receive benefits, the release said.

“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,” Columbus Zoo and Aquarium president and CEO Tom Stalf said in a statement.

“With this uncertainty and budget pressures, we must take steps to be fiscally responsible and protect the long-term future of our institution,” Stalf said. “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.”

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary