NEW YORK, JANUARY 16, 2009 -- The following statement was released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s President and CEO, Dr. Steven E. Sanderson:

The world is in economic turmoil. As a result, the Wildlife Conservation Society – like families and businesses across our nation – is facing a dire financial situation that will endure for some time, requiring us to change WCS in painful ways in the coming weeks and months.

We are in a global crisis, and we don’t know its full extent or shape. This crisis plays out for WCS in several ways:

  • Our endowment has lost 27% of its value as investments have suffered worldwide.
  • Support from New York City is in jeopardy due to the city’s own budget losses.
  • Governor Paterson is proposing cuts to the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium by 55 percent this year and totally eliminating it next year.
  • We’re beginning to see softness in gifts from foundations and individuals and in our membership renewals; a possible loss of 10% this year and 20% next year.
  • WCS pension benefits costs are expected to increase over the next two years.

When you factor all these stresses into our budget, along with other inevitable cost increases, the result is the need to cut $15M by July 1.

The $15M reduction will be applied to the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, WCS Education and other programs in these institutions. All operating divisions at WCS will be reduced, including: Public Affairs, Finance, Business Services, Development, General Counsel, and Office of the President. Both union and non-union staff will share in the impact.

These cuts do not include the reductions expected in the City Zoos (Prospect, Central Park, and Queens) or our WCS Global Conservation program. Those cuts will take place, but on a different time frame. The City Zoos will be asked for a reduction plan that anticipates a cut in City support. Global Conservation is making reductions now because of impacts on income from endowment and reduced gift income.

On the personnel side of the current cuts, we will make this as painless as possible. We will eliminate vacancies; invite employees to voluntarily leave with incentive packages; and finally, implement involuntary staff reductions in the spring.

All these numbers are not just numbers: They represent real New Yorkers and their families whose personal stories are about to take a difficult turn. While the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium are named in the budget lines, it is our colleagues, families, friends and communities who will feel these cuts.

Each year, the Wildlife Conservation Society educates millions of students and future environmentalists, employs more than 4,000 worldwide, and pumps more than $290 million into our state’s economy. More than 4 million tourists visit us each year, buying from the local merchants in Coney Island, the Bronx and across New York. While we take these important budget cutting steps, we are asking the city and state to see these institutions as a stimulus package that already exists for New Yorkers and their communities facing one of the most difficult economic times in recent memory.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit:

Note to the Media: The Wildlife Conservation Society encourages all New Yorkers to go to to sign a petition asking Albany to restore its state funding.

Linda Corcoran: (1-718-220-5182;
Stephen Sautner: (1-718-220-3682;
Steve Fairchild: (1-718-220-5189;