Faced with a $194,000 cut in state funding and a long to-do list, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has decided to add four weeks to its planned two-month wintertime closing.
The zoo will close two weeks early, on Dec. 15, and reopen two weeks late, on March 15. Officials said a planned Christmas event will be moved to the second weekend in December.
The zoo began closing in January and February several years ago. The extra down time will save $60,000 in operating costs and allow more time to complete seven renovation projects, including roof and gutter repairs and construction of a new manure handling system.
"We don't anticipate layoffs of full-time staff," said interim zoo President and CEO Donald Hutchinson. But the extended shutdown will shorten the season for about a dozen temporary employees and save about $60,000.
"Nobody working with the animals really is affected by this, and the animals are not affected at all," Hutchinson said. The zoo has few indoor exhibits, so winter attendance was always low, Hutchinson said. "Closing two weeks early is really going to have minimal impact on attendance," he said.
The zoo also will delay filling the 19 open positions and continue private fundraising to make up for lost state funds.