Zoos Fear Forced Closure, Destruction of Animals

"There is no set number decided upon what animals will be moved within the Bronx, to other WCS facilities and to other facilities that meet or exceed AZA [Association of Zoos and Aquariums] accreditation," she told ABCNews.com in April.

Among the animals that might get the ax: bats, porcupines, antelope and the camel-like guanaco. Dixon said the zoo will close the World of Darkness, home to a two-toed sloth, broad-nosed caimans and other nocturnal animals. She also said it will move some animals out of the Rare Animal Range and the southeastern corner of the zoo.

Zoos in Kansas, Connecticut, Missouri and Maryland have found themselves in similar economic situations.

Attendance Up but Public Funding Down

Though healthy attendance across the board is keeping private zoos and aquariums above water, those that rely heavily on state and city funding have had to make creative compromises and, in some cases, drastic cuts.

At the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Mo., long-standing budget issues in the city compounded with the economic downturn have forced the zoo to make do with less and less.

First, the humans felt the pinch: Travel and training, advertising and marketing, and professional services and supplies were reduced.

Then the animals took a hit. The zoo cut some extra treats out of animals' diets and also moved a few animals to other institutions.

Streamlining Diets, Relocating Animals to Save Money

"We have never had to do this before and certainly not for these reasons," said Melinda Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Dickerson Park Zoo. "We're keeping our main priorities -- the health and well-being of the animals and the experience of guests -- and trying to balance and do what's best for both."

Although animal care is the zoo's No. 1 concern, she said they were able to streamline their diets in subtle ways.

"We still provide enrichment and variety but maybe not as much variety," she said. Given how expensive produce is, the zoo, like many families, she said, looks for less expensive kinds.

Pushed to the wall, the zoo sent a pair of hyenas packing to a zoo in Boise, Idaho. Some swans, a pair of lovebirds and an antelope were also sent to zoos around the country.

"In the grand picture of things, that's really all that people will notice," she said, adding that to do much more could threaten attendance and earned revenue, which is the last thing it needs when its other revenue stream is already so impaired.

"Our first priority is we don't want to do anything that will impact the guest experience," she continued. "That would be shooting ourselves in the foot."

Option of Last Resort

Facing a $1 million shortfall, the Kansas City Zoo in Kansas City, Mo., is doing all it can to avoid Dickerson's situation.

"We just tried everything to not have to send animals out of here," said Randy Wisthoff, the zoo director.

In addition to instituting the equivalent of a hiring freeze and trimming its marketing budget, it has cut zoo hours enough so that it only needs one shift of animal keepers per day. It has also cut travel expenses.

Anything but animal care, Wistoff said. "You can't lessen your care -- the care and quality of care you provide for the animals. If you can do it in other ways, that's what you do."

Not only does moving out animals dilute the value of the zoo, it's not an easy task to find new homes.

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