NPR : News

Filed Under:

Spineless, And Now Homeless: National Zoo Closes Animal Exhibit

Invertebrates make up about 99 percent of all species. But they're no longer being featured at the National Zoo due to budget problems. The Invertebrate Exhibit was shut down Sunday, less than a week after the closure was publicly announced.

The zoo says its exhibit of cuttlefish, butterflies, spiders and other spineless animals, which first opened in 1987, needs $5 million in upgrades, along with $1 million annually. But officials say their fundraising priorities lie elsewhere, including a renovation of the zoo's Bird House.

The exhibit of spineless animals "is not included in the zoo's five-year strategic plan or its 20-year master plan," The Associated Press said Monday. "Plans call for a future Hall of Biodiversity, including invertebrates."

Negative reactions to the zoo's plan to shut down the spineless animals exhibit include an online petition on the Change.org site, which quotes an article by Wired that says:

"Having the nation's zoo suddenly and with little public warning close a long-standing exhibit is unprecedented. Public comments on the Museum's Facebook page are overwhelmingly shocked and negative, including some from volunteers that work at the Zoo."


On the zoo's Facebook page, the suspicion has been raised that zoo Director Dennis Kelly purposefully avoided disclosing his plan until the final week as a way to avoid a public campaign to save the exhibit. Others simply aired their regret about the closing.

"This is such a terrible loss," one recent comment reads. "I understand that many visitors prefer the 'charismatic megafauna' but the invertebrate exhibit was such a great learning experience. It served to really help kids understand what biological diversity is all about."

On Thursday, Kelly responded to concerns about the zoo's shutdown of the exhibit — and about what will become of all the spineless animals once it's dismantled.

"We are committed to finding the best possible homes for all the animals and will not euthanize healthy invertebrates," he said. "While unlikely, there may be individual specimens where quality-of-life or untreatable-disease concerns would lead to a recommendation for humane euthanasia."

The wide world of invertebrates includes insects, crustaceans, worms, shellfish and spiders — and as NPR's Christopher Joyce reported 10 years ago, the animals have been a tough sell for conservation efforts.

"Invertebrates are not furry," he said. "They don't eat out of your hand. They're parasites; they bite and sting. But their disappearance would fundamentally change the planet."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

From Tahrir To Tiananmen, 'City Squares' Can't Escape Their History

Governments have tried to erase the evidence of some squares' troubled pasts, but that doesn't mean they've been forgotten. A new book gathers writers' thoughts about famous squares around the world.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

10 Years After Immigration Protests, What Has Changed?

Jose Antonio Vargas of Define American, Fermin Vasquez of the SEIU and Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies discuss the legacy of 10 years of activism for immigration reform.
NPR

'The Guardian' Launches New Series Examining Online Abuse

A video was released this week where female sports journalists were read abusive online comments to their face. It's an issue that reaches far beyond that group, and The Guardian is taking it on in a series called "The Web We Want." NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with series editor Becky Gardiner and writer Nesrine Malik, who receives a lot of online abuse.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.