U.S. Zoos Feel Pain of Budget Cuts

Zoos across America are reeling from funding shortfalls caused by the economic downturn, the Associated Press reports.

From California to Florida and many states between, zoos are seeing not only a decline in giving by corporations and individuals but also a pruning and even elimination of funding from city and state governments.

In New York, Governor David Paterson has proposed cutting funding for the state’s Zoo, Botanical Garden and Aquarium Program by 55 percent in 2009 and eliminating the budget for the program in 2010. Some 76 zoos, aquariums, arboreta, and nature centers are affected.

If the cuts go through, many zoos are saying, they may have to lay off staff, eliminate educational and outreach programs, and mothball exhibits. There is also talk of “laying off” animals.

The Wildlife Conservation Society runs New York City’s zoos and aquarium and stands to lose a big chunk of its annual revenue if it no longer gets funding from the State of New York.

To rally public support it is encouraging a letter-writing campaign to Governor Paterson. And it has distributed this bitter-sweet video on the Internet. It’s a dramatization of layoffs at the Bronx Zoo, starring some of the zoo’s animals.

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn