News Release

Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,

April 5, 2020


Chicago Zoological Society Statement

Brookfield, Ill. – The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unanticipated and urgent financial pressures on many businesses, including nonprofit cultural institutions such as the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo. The zoo has been closed since March 19 and has practically no earned revenue stream available at this time. CZS was forced to make the difficult decision to place nearly one-third of its staff on temporary lay-off/unpaid furlough as of April 4.

The lay-offs included staff who are not considered critically essential to support the minimum operations of the organization, while keeping staff employed who ensure the health and welfare of the zoo’s animal population, maintenance and protection of the buildings and grounds, and other critical support system and functions. These temporary workforce reductions affected staff in every department.

During the lay-off period, staff is on no-pay, no-duty status, and eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. In addition, furloughed/laid-off staff will continue to receive medical and other benefits for a period of time. The duration of the furlough/temporary lay-offs is unknown at this time due to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

This is a very challenging and difficult situation, and the Society hopes it will be resolved soon. However, CZS had to respond quickly to the tremendous, unanticipated financial pressures it is facing in order to ensure the zoo’s future sustainability.

In an attempt to assist with the Society’s financial situation, it has applied for loans through the new stimulus bill. In addition, the Society’s Board of Trustees and Women’s Board has transitioned to a virtual format for its largest fund-raising event of the year—The Whirl. Brookfield Zoo welcomes donations from the public, zoo members, and donors through its website to assist with the situation. Information on how to donate may be found at

Brookfield Zoo is also asking current zoo members to renew now and those considering a membership to also do so in order to help alleviate some of the financial pressures. As a thank you, the zoo is extending the duration of current memberships to offset the temporary closure.

CZS has a preparedness team that has been meeting daily and planning for some time in anticipation of the pandemic extending a number of months. As new information is disseminated and the

situation changes, the team remains responsive to the information being communicated by state and federal government agencies and other trustworthy sources. Staff will continue to assess the COVID-19 situation and its effects and continues to plan daily for the future and the eventual emergence from the pandemic and reopening of Brookfield Zoo.

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About the Chicago Zoological Society

The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. The zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, and CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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