Audubon Zoo asking to borrow ten million dollars amid COVID-19 pandemic

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NEW ORLEANS – Although some tourism is coming back to New Orleans, the number of visitors isn’t nearly where it used to be. A hotspot that’s taking a huge hit? The Audubon Zoo. That’s why they’re asking to borrow millions of dollars as soon as next month.

“We have to care for 15,000 animals. We cannot furlough animals- we can’t lay off animals,” President and CEO of Audubon Nature Zoo, Ron Forman said. 

More than 70% of Audubon Zoo’s staff have already been laid off; that’s why Forman says the zoo is asking to borrow up to $10 million from a project that’s now on hold.

“Fifteen million dollars was placed in an account that was meant to be used for the Riverfront Development. We can’t do Riverfront Development for three years,” explained Forman. “So rather than have money sit there not being used, we’re asking the team to put it in and let us borrow the amount of  ten million dollars. It’ll take us close to the end of 2021.”

If granted, Forman says the funding won’t just go to Audubon Zoo – it’ll go to the Audubon Park along with the aquarium which he says, is important to the economy and the New Orleans community.

“We can’t lock ourselves at home and do nothing! And also, without attractions to come back to, there’s nothing to do. We gotta be smart in how we deal with this pandemic but we gotta come out of this! We’re gonna come back stronger than ever and that’s our hope. It may take a little bit longer but when New Orleans comes back, we’ll be a better city than what we were prior and we’re looking for ways to do that right now,” Forman said. 

WGNO is told, the Audubon Nature Institute Board of Directors unanimously approved the ten million dollar request. Two days ago, the New Orleans and Company Board unanimously approved it as well.

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