MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Zoo says the COVID-19 pandemic is “unlike any challenge” it has experienced and staff reductions have become necessary.

On Friday, the zoo announced that 125 zoo positions will be included in the staff reductions. That includes 48 employee layoffs, keeping vacant positions open, and suspending seasonal hiring. An additional four employees have also been laid off from the Zoo Foundation.

“This is a difficult week. These employees are talented individuals who have served our Zoo and worked tirelessly to provide world-class animal care, create unique nature education programming, build strong relationships with zoo supporters, and welcome millions of guests to a Zoo that makes Minnesotans proud,” Minnesota Zoo Director and Foundation President John Frawley said.

The zoo closed to the public on March 14 and has needed to cancel or postpone many programs and events. The zoo says that it became evident in the weeks since that the pandemic will require a long-term recovery plan.

“This reduction is not a reflection of the work performed by our staff, this is an unfortunate result of the current pandemic. I am grateful for the service of all Zoo and Foundation employees – and for their commitment to compassionately serving animals and people in Minnesota and beyond,” Frawley said.

Read the full statement here.