Lake Superior Zoo Lays Off 12 Full-Time Staff Members Including CEO During Shutdown
Essential employees still working to care for animals
DULUTH, Minn. -The Lake Superior Zoo has been forced to lay off twelve full-time employees including its CEO.
The coronavirus outbreak is to blame as the zoo has been closed to the public for the past two weeks with no signs of opening up anytime soon.
Now, much of the staff is laid off and others have been reduced to part-time.
Paths and buildings at the Lake Superior Zoo are empty now. The only people left full-time are the interim CEO, a maintenance person, and ten animal care workers.
“It’s really quiet around here which is really strange. We miss the public very much, we’re really excited to have people come back when we reopen,” said lead zookeeper Emily Perala. “And the animals miss the people too. It’s obvious.”
The animals are being cared for just like always, but that can get expensive, especially during a time when the zoo can’t sell tickets.
“So the big cats like the lions and tigers are usually between $200 and $400 a month just in meat alone to feed them,” explained Perala.
The temporary closure comes as the zoo is still rebuilding from a devastating flood in 2012.
Construction on the new ‘Bear Country’ exhibit is expected to continue next week, but staff have no idea when the public will be able to come see the new display.
“It’s an unfortunate time, but it is for everyone. We’re all in the same boat together here, but the momentum is behind them, they’re making progress, construction continues there,” said former CEO Erik Simonson, a state senator who was among the non-essential staff laid off at the zoo
He will still serve on the zoo’s board of directors, but tells us he’s done working there full-time after about two-and-a-half years as CEO.
Simonson has accepted a new job as Executive Director of Workforce Development at Lake Superior College.
“Lake Superior College has a long history of being a great community partner and working with local businesses and regional businesses and industry, so I see this as an opportunity to continue that work and perhaps take it to the next level,” said Simonson.
Meanwhile, the zoo is working to keep everything as normal as possible for the animals and the essential staff members.
They post Facebook videos often, allowing families to see the animals they love even when they can’t visit them in person.