However, even as public aid for zoos from states and cities dwindels, public interest from families looking for affordable outings is surging.
"They are well-positioned to succeed in a down economy," said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the accrediting institution for the industry.
As families opt for "stay-cations" over more expensive travel vacations, he said, the zoos across the country are seeing very strong attendance.
At the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, N.C., good weather combined with people staying close to home has contributed to record weekend attendance. Dogged by financial troubles for years, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Md., is also experiencing a bounce in attendance and private support.
"With limited resources, zoos have to make choices," Feldman said. "But I think they'll still be able to fulfill that mission even with those difficult choices having been made."