Projecting $21 million in lost revenue, the Audubon Nature Institute cuts staff

Coronavirus lockdown hits zoo, aquarium and other facilities at normally busiest time of year
Updated: Apr. 28, 2020 at 11:01 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The Audubon Nature Institute, projecting it will lose $21 million in revenue during the period from March through June, has reduced full-time staff by roughly 50 percent, a spokesperson announced Tuesday.

In addition, Audubon said it had laid off all part-time employees and reduced salaries of some full-time employees, including its executive team, by 25 percent.

CEO and President Ron Forman has taken a 50 percent pay cut, the Institute said.

The COVID-19 closure comes during what is Audubon’s business season when it generates roughly 44 percent of its yearly revenue.

“It’s important for the community to know that when we shut our doors, we don’t get to walk out,” said Rebecca Dietz, Executive Vice-President of Public Affairs and General Counsel at the Audubon Nature Institute.

While the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americans and the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium remain closed, staff must still tend to the animals in its care, which cost over $70,000 per month to feed.

As a non-profit, Dietz said relies on ticket sales, special programs, sales from concessions and gift shop, and donations to support the mission of protecting and sharing the wonders of nature,” a statement said.

The cuts will extend to some of Audubon’s most popular programs during the calendar year, including:

• Audubon Cool Zoo and Gator Run will remain closed for the 2020 Season.

• Zoo Summer Camp will be cancelled for June 2020, July 2020 camps are still pending


• Audubon Zoo Lights presented by Children’s Hospital 2020 will be cancelled.

• Private special events at all locations through May 30, 2020 will be cancelled or rescheduled.

Aububon Cancellations
Aububon Cancellations(Audubon Nature Institute)

“93 percent of Audubon’s operating budget is self-generated and our self-generated revenue sources have been eliminated dramatically due to the closure of our facilities,” Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman said in a statement.

”At this time, we cannot predict how long COVID-19 will impact our operations,” Forman said.

“As such, we are implementing short-term and long-term strategies to address the financial implications of the virus. We are committed to supporting staff affected by these very difficult decisions and are providing resources to help them get through this."

While the public attractions are closed and resources are low, Audubon said its commitment to the community remains strong through the Virtual Community Connection Series, a virtual connection to its attractions through social media for families online. The program is designed to virtually engage Audubon’s supporters through various social media pages.

During the Audubon facilities closures, supporters can help by donating to Audubon’s recovery efforts.

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