Facing coronavirus challenges, MN Zoo lays off dozens of workers

Overall, 125 positions will be impacted in some way.
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Minnesota Zoo

As it plans its future post-coronavirus, the Minnesota Zoo has announced it's dismissing a chunk of its workforce. 

In a Friday press release, the Apple Valley attraction said it's laying off 48 employees, keeping vacant positions open, and suspending seasonal hiring.

Additionally, four employees with the Minnesota Zoo Foundation, the organization's fundraising arm, have been laid off. 

"This decision was not made lightly and the next several months will be exceptionally challenging," the release says. 

The zoo says it had made a number of cuts to keep operating, including "cancelling or delaying major projects," but such reductions were "not enough to sustain the Zoo in the current environment."

"This is a difficult week," Minnesota Zoo Director and Foundation President John Frawley said in a statement, praising the dismissed workers for their service to the zoo and its animals.

"This reduction is not a reflection of the work performed by our staff, this is an unfortunate result of the current pandemic."

The zoo closed to the public on March 14 but has been providing "virtual educational programming," and says it will  "make additional resources available for families and educators across the state."

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The release also notes that the animals "will continue to receive exceptional care."

Zoo leadership are "evaluating options for reopening," acknowledging that the experience "will be different" for visitors when that happens. 

The layoff announcement comes as the state legislature considers a special appropriation of $6 million recently recommended by Gov. Tim Walz. 

A state agency, the Minnesota Zoo first opened in 1978. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, it boasted a workforce of about 220 people. 

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