VIDEO: Hard Times Hit Zoos

by flickr user g-na used under Creative Commons license


 July has been a month of tough choices for everybody:  summer unemployment is soaring and several states are still struggling to balance their budgets. But even amid the chaos, at least one oft-overlooked element of society is suffering more than usual. As it turns out, July has been especially rough for the nation’s zoo animals. 

The Los Angeles Zoo (home of Gracie the great escaping ape and Ruby, the elephant whose retirement home is nicer than your Nana’s) paid out $3,281 to the USDA in wrongful death settlements involving Gita the elephant and Judeo the chimpanzee, who both died under mysterious circumstances while in the zoo’s care, it was reported Tuesday. The Zoo said both cases were freak accidents (Judeo died after being bitten by a rattlesnake) and paid the fine without admitting wrongdoing. 

 

Further north, the San Francisco Zoo’s most famous gay couple, penguins Harry and Pepper called it splitsville after more than six years together. Keepers blame social-climbing Harry, who abandoned his partner for Linda, a female penguin whose partner had recently died.

Perhaps most dispiriting, zoo animals are losing their jobs. Back in April, the venerable Bronx Zoo ‘evicted’ dozens of small nocturnal mammals Not to be outdone, Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo threatened to eliminate 200 of its animals this month after unexpected budget cuts. Zoo officials warned that they would euthanize almost a sixth of the park’s wild inhabitants if the state didn’t pony up more cash. (The state stood firm, but the animals got a reprieve).  

Yet, even in these dark times, there are bright spots. In perhaps the greatest zoo related irony, the Detroit Zoo enjoyed record attendance this month. Go figure.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.