Cutbacks in funding lead to downsizing at zoos

Cutbacks are coming as state and local governments try to achieve anything resembling a balanced budget. One of the items on chopping blocks across the country is support for local zoos and aquariums. New York has one of the most prominent examples of zoo cutbacks. Governor Paterson is cutting the budget for zoos and related entities by more than half--$4 million for 2009--and cutting funding completely in the 2010 budget.

The loss of government support is hitting zoos and aquariums especially hard because of a decrease in support from foundations.

You might think to yourself, "So what, everyone needs to cut back, what's the big deal if zoos have to make these cuts?"

There is in fact a lot at stake if zoos and aquariums lose significant amounts of funding. These fun and educational attractions provide low cost entertainment for families. In 2008, many zoos experienced record attendance as families looked for local entertainment instead of vacationing. Even though one of our bloggers cut out zoos from her summer plans due to the high cost of snacks, zoos and aquariums still made WalletPop's 5 memberships worth the cost, with average memberships running $100.

The loss of a cheap entertainment option for children isn't the only reason this news is troubling. If all of the cuts are as deep as New York's then many zoos will have to downsize their exhibits and shift animals to other facilities. The problems set in when, just like human job seekers, zoo animals have trouble finding a new home at a time everyone is downsizing. The last thing we need is a pack of homeless marmosets rampaging through our streets! Releasing these animals back into the wild isn't an option, given the danger this presents to them.

Zoos aren't looking for special treatment, just a fair shake from state budgets. If zoos can continue their attendance and membership growth while absorbing the cutbacks, then maybe they can continue to meet the needs of their communities and more importantly the needs and safety of the animals in their care. But if things get really bad, maybe we'll see Jack Hanna and a troop of animals marching on Washington for their bailout.

At least let's hope our zoos don't have to take the drastic measures shown in the video below.

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