The Night Exhibit, a fixture at Woodland Park Zoo since 1975, is now in the twilight of its days: it is scheduled to close down on March 1, 2010.
The exhibit’s shutdown follows on the heels of other budget cuts in 2009 that included staff reduction and employee furloughs. The outlook for 2010 mandated that the zoo’s budget be reduced by up to $1 million in order to accommodate rising expenses in a time of reduced revenue.
Why the Night Exhibit? According to zoo administrators, the crucial factor in the decision was the high cost of running it. The aging exhibit’s energy use exceeds that of most others–a situation that was not only expensive, but also out of sync with current efforts to run “green,” energy-efficient exhibits. Closing the exhibit will save approximately $300,000 in annual operating costs.
It is not yet known what will become of the old building, but the fate of its residents is more clear-cut.
Some animals, for example, will stay at the zoo and be exhibited in other areas in a few months’ time. The selected species are ones that are not exclusively nocturnal and often move about by day.
This list includes the slow-moving two-toed sloths, which will be housed in the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit. The Adaptations Building will be the future home of the fruit bats, South American anteaters known as tamanduas, and the kangaroo-like African rodents called springhaas. The building’s exhibit space will be modified to accommodate the newcomers.
As for the three-banded armadillo, it will see its zoo career expand: it will be used in education programs that allow visitors to see an animal up close.
Some animals, however, will remain on zoo grounds but will no longer be on exhibit. Among these species are the pygmy lorises (tree-dwelling primates from southeast Asia). Woodland Park Zoo participates in a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for pygmy lorises. An SSP is a program run by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to maintain the genetic diversity and population of various endangered species kept in captivity.
The AZA will also advise the zoo about options for rehoming the rest of the animals at other accredited zoos.
Public reaction to the decision to close the Night House was immediate and passionate: zoogoers were not about to let the exhibit go gently into that good night. Letters, emails, and phone calls expressed everything from support to dismay. Some suggested fundraisers to preserve the exhibit; zoo officials expressed appreciation for this suggestion but did not consider it a viable solution for long-term maintenance and operation of the facility.
Although the zoo will not accept donations earmarked for keeping the Night House open, donations for supporting the ongoing care of the exhibit’s former occupants are welcome. Donations to the “Nocturnal Animal Fund” can be made in two ways:
- Online at: www.zoo.org/nocturnalanimalfund
- By mail, sent to: Woodland Park Zoo, c/o “Nocturnal Animal Fund,” 601 N. 59th St., Seattle, WA 98103.