CALGARY — The Calgary Zoo says it will take five months before it can fully reopen its doors after severe flooding that caused an estimated loss of $60 million.
Zoo officials also said that losing $160,000 in revenue daily has forced the facility to lay off 287 season and non-seasonal workers.
“Sad day at the zoo,” said the announcement on the zoo’s Facebook page. “With reduced operations for the next five months we unfortunately had to say goodbye to some very dedicated employees of the Zoological Society.
“This was about half of our full-time staff and most of the seasonal group. At this point, no city staff have been affected.”
CEO Clement Lanthier said the north part of the zoo will open first on July 31. That section includes the Penguin Plunge, Prehistoric Park and Canadian Wilds.
The zoo is located on St. George’s Island east of downtown and was swamped by floodwaters from the swollen Bow and Elbow rivers last month. Lanthier said 40 buildings, including the African Savannah exhibit, were severely damaged.
During the height of the flooding, the zebras were moved to the zoo’s wildlife conservation centre outside the city and about 160 animals had to be moved to higher ground. Two hippos almost escaped when high water levels lifted them close to the top of their enclosure.
Giraffes standing up to their bellies in cold water were ailing after the flood, but have since recovered.
Two peacocks, a pot-bellied pig and a variety of fish died.
Lanthier said damage at the zoo is so far pegged at $50 million, with another $10 million in lost revenue.
“The impact of the flood on our operation is staggering because we generate almost half our total revenue in July and August,” Lanthier said in a release Tuesday.
“In addition to damage to land and property, we will have a $10-million shortfall in revenue during the restoration period that we will not recover. In fact, we will lose $5 million in revenue in July alone.
“For a not-for-profit charity, this is a major blow.”
Restoration is underway but the zoo will not be able to resume full operations until late November.
“We will work harder than ever to connect people with nature and the animals which share our planet,” Lanthier said of the rebuilding effort.
Most of the zoo’s animals will remain in their familiar homes throughout the restoration period, but some may have to be temporarily relocated, Lanthier said.