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.


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  • Sonja Sharp is a journalist in New York and former Mother Jones editorial fellow.