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Audubon Nature Institute Announces Plan for Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

Audubon Nature Institute is taking the opportunity to improve current practices and examine strategies for long-term viability as it navigates the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the first steps will be moving Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium from the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on the river, building a combined experience that reenvisions the guest experience and educational programming.

Work will begin as soon as November and the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium will not reopen in its current location.

Audubon typically welcomes 750,000 visitors over the summer months and is estimating nearly an 80% decrease this year due to limited capacity, pausing groups and field trips, and decreased tourism visitation. Audubon’s estimated loss of revenue directly related to its facility closures from March to June was approximately $21M. Audubon has reduced its staff by close to 75%, laying off over 500 full time and part time employees.

“We have made some difficult decisions, always with an eye on the future,” said Audubon President and CEO Ron Forman. “With stability as our top priority for our future, we are streamlining business operations. The move will present a multitude of cost-savings and revenue-generating opportunities. As our rental commitment to the federal government comes to a close, Audubon will save approximately $1 million a year.”

Audubon is working aggressively on the design of the new downtown experience. Capital funding has been secured to complete a number of projects including the move of the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium to the Aquarium campus. This funding cannot be used to help close the gap in Audubon's current operations budget or to support operations.

The project is expected to include approximately 17,000 square feet of new space constructed inside the existing walls of the Aquarium and approximately 47,000 square feet of renovated space. Work will include permanently decommissioning the Entergy Giant Screen Theater, allowing space for a 5,000-square-foot multi-use events space on the first floor. A new shared lobby will modify and improve the existing theater lobby, providing access to the second floor. Moving the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium to the Aquarium campus will also create a faster and more convenient entry flow for guests and remove travel time between the facilities.

The new exhibit space will be a combination of relocated exhibitry from the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium and new custom-fabricated exhibitry. The feature exhibit will be a glass-enclosed Butterfly Pavilion on the second floor.

“While we are saddened by the reality of temporary closure, the move of the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium will present cost-savings and fresh new experiences throughout the downtown campus for our community,” said Forman. “Audubon’s revitalized downtown campus will give us the opportunity to feature our wildlife conservation story and our commitment to positively impact the natural world.”

Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.