Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Would you like to host a zoo animal?

A recent news article caught my eye. Zoos Fear Forced Closure, Destruction of Animals starts with:

Anyone want a giraffe?
A zoo operator says it will have to close a pair of Massachussetts zoos, lay off most of the 165 employees, find homes for some of the more-than-1,000 animals and possibly euthanize the rest of the animals unless the state restores millions of dollars in funding.
Patrons view giraffes at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston Thursday, June 13, 2002. Massachusetts, facing a $2 billion deficit, is proposing to drastically cut funding for two state-financed zoos.


This reminded me of a similar problem back in 1984. The story goes that:

During the summer of 1984, when the troubles at the city owned Atlanta Zoo were coming to a head, volunteers at the Atlanta Zoological Society (a privately sponsored support group, dedicated to improving the Zoo) were deluged by calls from members who had received a copy of the letter that follows and were panicking at the prospect of what it suggested. The letter was personally addressed to each and typed on NEW but official looking Atlanta Zoo stationary, embossed in sepia tones with the pictures of various animals usually found in zoos, and hand signed by the supposed sender. It is, of course a complete hoax, and no-one is really sure who was responsible for this rather elaborate prank:

June 29, 1984

Mr. Jim Brueggemann 2279 Plaster Road (#7) Atlanta, Georgia 30345

Dear Mr. Brueggemann:

As you are aware, Atlanta's zoo is going through a very stressful period. The Board has considered several alternatives and we feel we have a novel, short-term solution to the zoo's current difficulties.

Our solution, which involves you, will immediately relieve the zoo staff of the problems of daily caring for the animals and give the staff the opportunity to perform much needed repairs in animal exhibits.

You have been selected to care for one of the animals for the rest of the summer. You were highly recommended to us because of:

(1) your concern for the reputation of the Atlanta Zoo
(2) your known love of animals.

Accordingly, Dixie, a 6,000-lb. hippopotamus from North Africa will soon be delivered to your home. You are totally responsible for her care; housing and feeding until September. Please call Dr. Emmett Asheley, who is on leave but still considered our zoo veterinarian, with your questions regarding Dixie's special diet requirements.

You'll agree, I'm sure, that by distributing our animals among caring metro-Atlanta citizens we are keeping our problems in "our own back yard," while constructively working toward having one of the finest zoological facilities in the country.


Rufus Simms
Animal Husbandry

I wonder if anyone said "Sure, we can take the hippo."

Technorati tags: zoo, troubles


Crimson Wife said...

How sad, I used to be a member when we lived in Boston. Even now, we always take the kids to the Christmas lights display at the Stone Zoo when we're visiting my folks for the holidays. I sure hope they're able to figure out the financing to keep the zoos open!

Henry Cate said...

It would be interesting to see the zoo budgets over the last fifty years adjusted for inflation. I wonder if their costs have really climbed, or if like some other bureaucratic institutions, the zoos started asking for more and more money to fund "needed" programs.

Sebastian said...

I read a book last year by one of the vets at the San Diego Zoo. Great book, with alternating sections on his experiences and historical background about the zoo. During the Great Depression, the San Diego Zoo did have to eliminate some of its animals in order to keep costs down.
I think the book was Life at the Zoo by Robinson

Bob Durtschi said...

This is a very good example of the "Washington Monument defense" (or syndrome) in which bureaucrats urged to reduce expenses respond by targeting beloved icons of government, whose loss outrages citizens and motivates them to protest the cuts. It's a cynical dodge. You can read more here: