Save the Bronx Zoo Today

(8PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Cross-posted at DailyKos.

What a difference a year makes. About a year ago in my extremely popular  The Animals are Getting the Pink Slip (A Bronx Zoo photo and action diary) this is what big sister Moxie looked like;

Yesterday I took my camera to see the three new lion cubs at the Bronx Zoo. The diary is called Friday Evening Photo Blogging: Lion Cubs Today! I can hardly tell Moxie and her mama Sukari apart but I got some great photos of Moxie playing loving sister to three 25 pound cubs. Now the stars of the zoo are  Nala, Adamma and Shani;

What hasn’t changed is that both Bloomberg and Paterson are still screwing the zoo and many cultural institutions. This year much harder than last.

See below for what actions we the people have left.  

The zoo has already been downsized last year but that was not enough for City Hall and Albany. This year the zoo is smaller, no more World of Darkness for children to learn that when the suns goes down most of the worlds animals wake up. The Rare Animal Range is gone too, endangered species many that only exist because of the efforts of the Wildlife Conservation Society, have been shipped out. The exhibits of Arabian oryx and blesbok are gone, the Skyfarie has been dismantled and the 112 year run of Wildlife Conservation magazine has ended a year ago

But then, who needs wildlife conservation? Once again the only answer for the zoo and aquarium from government could mean cutting more staff, closing more exhibits, maybe even shipping more animals to other zoos, just like last year.  

You can take some action at the Wildlife Conservation Website but I doubt either of these two politicians will be impressed. Paterson is on his way out and Bloomberg thinks the answer is to stop that one free day per week while raising the price of education programs up to market value. As an older New Yorker I actually remember where that one free days per week and the education programs for low income families came from. It is a government subsidy that is over two generations old, a product of good government that was considered permanent even through the budget crisis of the 1970’s. That was back when the less fortunate children of the city mattered to government.

During last year’s budget cuts just like this year, the WCS refused to end the free day because some people still remember. Now the government is not fond of educating people about nature and wildlife but that is what the WCS does. Surprisingly the people who elected these politicians seem to get it too but not the government.

According to a 2008 national public opinion survey, 79 percent of Americans believe that zoos and aquariums are good for the local economy, and an impressive 80 percent believe that zoos and aquariums are important enough to local communities to be supported by government funding.

The Wildlife Conservation Society petition Tell City Hall to Protect the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium explains the situation;

I’m deeply concerned by the proposed budget cut to New York City’s cultural institutions. In the Fiscal Year 2010 adopted budget, the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium received a total of $9.3 million. If the proposed cut is accepted, the zoo and aquarium face a $3.9 million cut, bringing down city support by 42 percent to $5.4 million. 42% is a draconian cut that will have devastating impact on the zoos and aquarium operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

These cuts will have a particularly severe effect on the Society’s 110-year-old Bronx Zoo, and the 114-year-old New York Aquarium, which are already facing financial challenges due to the economic crisis. These two organizations generate more than $289.6 million in economic activity annually for the city, supporting businesses and creating jobs.

Additionally, these organizations are more than drivers of economic activity in New York City. The Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium are vital to the science education of hundreds of thousands of students each year. For example, in FY 2009, 478,371 children visited the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium via school or camp and an additional 41,000 school children attend formal programming with the WCS Education Department.

A 42% budget cut will result in a reduction of the services and programming as well as jobs that New Yorkers and our communities rely on – especially in this economic climate.

I urge you to consider a logical solution to these proposed cuts for New York City’s cultural institutions. I’m confident that budget decisions that affect the cultural vitality of New York City can be made using a strategic scalpel instead of an ax.

The words of the Senegalese environmentalist, Baba Dioum, explains the present day government.

In the end,

we will conserve only what we love,

we will love only what we understand,

we will understand only what we are taught.

With the drastic cuts intended by the present government, vital environmental education programs may not survive. The WCS once claimed to “educate more than 2 million schoolchildren each year.” In addition to that the zoological parks once trained more than 2,000 teachers annually. Those numbers seem to be way down now. Down even more since the New York Aquarium ended the summer education program as a result of last year’s cuts.

To add insult to injury, this week after the state complied with Obama’s dream of furthering the privatization of education, by taking away from the Environmental Protection Fund to restore the operations of state parks, they created even more more cuts to Bronx Zoo and other environmental education. The science-theme children’s camps and after school programs where conservation was taught and teenagers once earned community service credits were already very threatened with the coming draconian slashes. Now they all seem to be just gone.

After last years cuts all five zoological parks had layoffs. I don’t know the numbers in other boroughs but in the Bronx alone more than 800 teens are hired each year with more than 1,000 seasonal workers getting jobs at the zoo. Bloomberg who will bend over backwards to save every single job on Wall St. answer to this threat to the Bronx economy can be seen at this NY1 report. “every group has to feel the bite from budget cuts.” He knocked city support down to $9 million last year and he thinks another 42% is feeling the bite? With the proposed 50% cut from Albany that’s more than just a bite.

“When you cut culture in New York City, you are hurting New Yorkers and New York, especially during a time of high unemployment in our state,” said John Calvelli, WCS executive vice president of public affairs.

“Our zoo and aquarium and all of our city’s cultural institutions, including our museums, gardens and performing arts groups, are in communities where families rely on them for jobs and where merchants rely on them to drive tourism and business.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society alone, which runs the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo, pumps more than $416 million into our economy.

New York City is suppose to be the cultural capital of the nation and the present government is just trying to do for culture what they’ve already done for public television and radio. Perhaps the best action you could take is to contact the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and write a letter informing them that due to all the budget cut at the cultural attractions you have cancelled your plans to visit New York City. Since they are the only people that Bloomberg listens to, it might have some impact. Tell them you are going to Disneyworld instead, it’s a better representation of American culture anyhow.

Today on a visit to the zoos and aquarium you will meet staff and volunteers begging for the survival of the jobs, education programs and animals. Asking visitors to sign a petition or send a text message.  Will you send the text?

On a positive note, both the text and petition will also be received by New York City Council members and because last year’s effort got so strong it made both the newspapers and local television. If you are not from New York please stress that this puts a damper on any plans to visit.

Another way to help, if you have the funds, join the Wildlife Conservation Society. Not only can they put the money to great use, since the will of the people isn’t enough perhaps a few more financial supporters will impress the government.

In the meantime take a good long look at my Friday Evening Photo Blogging: Lion Cubs Today! In times like these everyone could use a little something that can put a smile on their face and you might as well view the happy family before Bloomberg breaks them up.  


    • Eddie C on May 29, 2010 at 23:32

    They grow up so quick.  

  1. The zoo in Asahiyama (Hokkaido, Japan) seemed to be in terminal decline until the crisis inspired a gamble on new ideas. A movie (English title Penguins in the Sky) was even made about the zoo’s crisis and comeback.


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