Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Smithsonian National Zoological Park

The front entrance to the National Zoo
Date opened 1889; 121 years ago (1889)[1]
Location 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW,
Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., USA
Land area 163 acres (66 ha)[2]
Coordinates 38°55′51.90″N 77°02′59.03″W / 38.931083°N 77.0497306°W / 38.931083; -77.0497306Coordinates: 38°55′51.90″N 77°02′59.03″W / 38.931083°N 77.0497306°W / 38.931083; -77.0497306
Number of animals Zoo: 2,000[2]
CRC: 30-40 Endangered Species[3]
Number of species 400[2]
Memberships AZA[4]
Major exhibits Amazonia, Asia Trail, Giant Panda Habitat, Great Ape House, Think Tank

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, and as part of the Smithsonian Institution, does not charge admission. Founded in 1889, its mission is to provide leadership in animal care, science, education, sustainability, and visitor experience.[5] The National Zoo has two campuses. The first is a 163-acre (66 ha) urban park located in northwest Washington, D.C. that is 20 minutes from the National Mall by Metro to the Woodley Park station.[6] The other campus is the 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI; formerly known as the Conservation and Research Center) in Front Royal, Virginia. SCBI is a non-public facility devoted to training wildlife professionals in conservation biology and to propagating rare species through natural means and assisted reproduction. The National Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).[7]

Altogether, the two facilities contain 2,000 animals of 400 different species.[8] About one-fifth of them are endangered or threatened. Most species are on exhibit at the Zoo's Rock Creek Park campus. Its best known residents are its giant pandas, but the Zoo is also home to birds, great apes, big cats, Asian elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals and many more. The SCBI facility houses between 30 and 40 endangered species at any given time depending on research needs and recommendations from the Zoo and the conservation community.[9] The National Zoo, as part of the Smithsonian Institution, receives federal appropriations for operating expenses. A new master plan introduced for the park in 2008 designs to upgrade the park's exhibits and layout.

Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ),[10] the Zoo's membership program, is the partner of the National Zoological Park that has been providing support to wildlife conservation programs at the Zoo and around the world since 1958.[11] FONZ members receive free parking, discounts at the Zoo's stores and restaurants, and Smithsonian Zoogoer, an informative bimonthly magazine filled with the latest Zoo news, research and photos.[12]

FONZ's 40,000 members include about 20,000 families, largely in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and volunteers number more than 1,000 individuals. FONZ provides guest services, development support, education and outreach programs, concessions management, and financial support for research and conservation.[13]

The National Zoo is open every day of the year except December 25 (Christmas Day). On occasion, it closes early or opens late to host special events.[14]



The National Zoo was created by an Act of Congress in 1889 for “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” In 1890 it became a part of the Smithsonian Institution. Three well-known individuals drew up plans for the Zoo: Samuel Langley, third Secretary of the Smithsonian; William T. Hornaday, noted conservationist and head of the Smithsonian's vertebrate division; and Frederick Law Olmsted, the premier landscape architect of his day. Together they designed a new zoo to exhibit animals for the public and to serve as a refuge for wildlife, such as bison and beaver, which were rapidly vanishing from North America.[15]

Olmsted Walk, near the zoo's Elephant House

In its first half century, the National Zoo, like most zoos around the world, focused principally on exhibiting one or two representatives of as many exotic species as possible. The number of many species in the wild began to decline drastically, principally because of human activities. Sometimes animals became unexpectedly available. In 1899, the Kansas frontiersman Charles "Buffalo" Jones captured a bighorn sheep for the zoo.[16] The fate of animals and plants became a pressing concern. Many of these species were favorite zoo animals, such as elephants and tigers; hence the staff began to concentrate on the long-term management and conservation of entire species.[15]

The middle and late 1950s were a turning point for the Zoo. The Zoo hired its first full-time, permanent veterinarian, reflecting a priority placed on professional health care for the animals. In 1958, Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) was founded. The citizen group's first accomplishment was to persuade Congress to fund the Zoo's budget entirely through the Smithsonian; previously, the Zoo's budget was divided between appropriations for the Smithsonian and the District of Columbia. This placed the Zoo on a firmer financial base, allowing for a period of growth and improvement. FONZ incorporated, as a nonprofit organization, turned its attention to developing education and volunteer programs, supporting these efforts from its operations of concessions at the Zoo, and expanding community support for the Zoo through a growing membership.[15]

In the early 1960s, the Zoo turned its attention to breeding and studying threatened and endangered species. Although some zoo animals had been breeding and raising young, no one knew why some species did so successfully and others didn't. In 1965 the Zoo created the zoological research division to study the reproduction, behavior, and ecology of zoo species, and to learn how best to meet the needs of the animals.[15]

Later, in 1975, the Zoo established the Conservation and Research Center (CRC) In 2010, the complex was renamed the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute(SCBI), the title also used as an umbrella term for the scientific endeavors taking place on both campuses. On 3,200 acres (13 km2) of Virginia countryside, rare species, such as Mongolian wild horses, scimitar-horned oryx, maned wolves, cranes, and others live and breed in spacious surroundings. Today, SCBI's efforts emphasize reproductive physiology, analysis of habitat and species relationships, genetics, husbandry and the training of conservation scientists.[15]

Male lion at the National Zoo

Expanding knowledge about the needs of zoo animals and commitment to their well being has changed the look of the National Zoo. Today, the animals live in natural groupings rather than as individuals. Rare and endangered species, such as golden lion tamarins, Sumatran tigers, and sarus cranes, breed and raise their young - a testament to the success of the Zoo's conservation and research programs.[15]

The National Zoo has developed public education programs to help students, teachers and families explore the intricacies of the animal world. The Zoo also designed specialized programs to train wildlife professionals from around the world and to form a network to provide crucial support for international conservation. The National Zoo is at the forefront of the use of web technology and programming to expand its programs to an international virtual audience.[15]

The National Zoo has been the home to giant pandas for more than 30 years. First Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling in 1972, and, since 2000, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. On July 9, 2005, Mei Xiang gave birth to Tai Shan, who went to China in February 2010. Plans for the future include modernizing the Zoo's aging facilities and expanding its education, research and conservation efforts in Washington, Virginia and in the wild. A 10-year renewel program has already seen the creation of Asia Trail, a series of habitats for seven Asian species, including sloth bears, red pandas, and clouded leopards. Elephant Trails, scheduled to open in 2012, will provide a new home for the Zoo's Asian elephants. Kids' Farm exhibit opened in 2004.[15]

The zoo, which is supported by tax revenues and open to everyone, attracts 2 million visitors per year, according to the Washington Post in 2005.

The National Zoo has a Federal Law Enforcement Agency deployed on its grounds; the National Zoological Park Police, which consists of full-time Law Enforcement Officers. The National Zoological Park Police is an agency that has been recognized by the United States Congress. The NZPP is one of five original police agencies within the District of Columbia with full police powers. The NZPP work very closely with the Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Park Police, Department of State, Capital Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Defense. The agency is considered the first line of defense in the event a major crisis occurs, from an escaped animal to a missing child, they can respond.

Special programs and events

In partnership with Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), a non-profit organization, the zoo holds annual fund raisers (ZooFari, Guppy Gala, and Boo at the Zoo) and free events (Sunset Serenades, Fiesta Musical). Proceeds support animal care, conservation science, education and sustainability at the National Zoo.[17]

  • Woo at the Zoo - A Valentine's Day talk by some of the Zoo's animal experts discussing the fascinating, and often quirky, world of animal dating, mating, and reproductive habits. All proceeds benefit the Zoo's animal care program.[17]
  • Earth Day: Party for the Planet - Celebrating Earth Day at the National Zoo. Guests can find out about simple daily actions they can take to enjoy a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.[17]
  • Easter Monday - Easter Monday has been a Washington-area multicultural tradition for many years. There is a variety of family activities, entertainment and special opportunities to learn more about the animals. Admission is free, and this event traditionally welcomes thousands of area families. The celebration began in response to the inability of African Americans to participate in the annual Easter Egg Roll held at the White House, until the Dwight Eisenhower presidency.[17]
  • Guppy Gala - This annual family-friendly event offers guests animal encounters, food and a variety of activities. This event is ticketed and open to FONZ Members only. All proceeds benefit the Zoo's animal care program.[17]
  • Zoofari - A casual evening of gourment foods, fine wines, entertainment and dancing under the stars. Each year, thousands of attendees enjoy delicacies prepared by master chefs from 100 of the D.C. area's finest restaurants. All proceeds benefit the Zoo's animal care program.[17]
  • Snore and Roar - A FONZ program that allows individuals and families to spend the night at the zoo, in sleeping bags inside of tents. A late-night flashlight tour of the zoo and a two-hour exploration of an animal house or exhibit area led by a zoo keeper are part of the experience. Snore and Roar dates are offered between June and September each year.[18]
  • Brew at the Zoo - Guests can sample beer from a variety of microbreweries at the Zoo. All proceeds benefit the Zoo's animal care program.[17]
  • Fiesta Musical - FONZ celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with an annual fiesta at the National Zoo. Animal demonstrations, Hispanic and Latino music, costumed dancers, traditional crafts and Latin American foods are offered.[17]
  • Grapes with the Apes - Visitors toast to wildlife conservation and learn about great apes at the Zoo's wine tasting event. All proceeds benefit the Zoo's animal care program.[17]
  • Autumn Conservation Festival at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute(SCBI) - Visitors talk with scientists one on one and learn about their research that spans the globe. Scientists are also on hand to help visitors explore the tools and technology they use to understand animals and their environments. Guests can get behind-the-scenes looks at some of the SCBI's endangered animals.[17]
  • Boo at the Zoo - Families with children ages two to 12 trick-or-treat in a safe environment and receive special treats from more than 40 treat stations. There are animal encounters, keeper talks and festive decorations. All proceeds benefit the Zoo's animal care program.[17]
  • Zoolights - The National Zoo's annual winter celebration. Guests can walk through the Zoo when it is covered with thousands of sparkling environmentally-friendly lights and animated exhibits, attend special keeper talks and enjoy live entertainment.[17]

Exhibits and animals

Mother and baby gorilla at the National Zoo

Daily programs include animal training, feeding demonstrations, and keeper talks. The following exhibits are at the Zoo:

  • Giant Panda Habitat - At the Giant Panda Habitat, two yards feature animal enrichment and add more than 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) to the pandas' outdoor exhibit. The indoor exhibit includes a room with a rocky outcrop and waterfall, an additional den, and visitor viewing space and informational exhibits. Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are at the National Zoo on a ten-year loan from the China Wildlife Conservation Association. They are the focus of a research, conservation, and breeding program designed to preserve this endangered species. Their male cub, Tai Shan, was sent to Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya'an, Sichuan, China, to take part in Bifengxia’s breeding program.
  • Asia Trail - Asia Trail, a series of exhibits that opened in 2006, is home to six Asian species: Sloth Bears, Fishing Cats, Red Pandas, Clouded Leopards, Asian Small-clawed Otters, and giant pandas. As visitors travel along the winding path of the new Asia Trail and spend time at the animal habitats, they can watch the animals, read the exhibit graphics, and discover how the animals are Built to Survive.
  • Elephant Trails - This comprehensive breeding, education, and scientific research program is designed to help scientists care for elephants in zoos and save them in the wild. Three elephants currently live at this exhibit: Ambika, Shanthi, and Kandula (Shanthi’s male calf, born in 2001). Since, the Elephant House closed down to create a bigger elephant house. They scheduled it in 2011, but movied it to 2013.
Two oragutans crossing over visitors via the "O Line."
  • Great Ape House - The Zoo is home to many primates. Orangutans and Western Lowland Gorillas can be found at the Great Ape House. Smaller primates called monkeys, including Golden Lion Tamarins, Geoffroy's marmosets, and howler monkeys can be found in the Small Mammal House. Look for Siamangs and other gibbons at Gibbon Ridge and lemurs at Lemur Island. On mild days, the orangutans can sometimes be seen overhead as they travel along the O Line between the Great Ape House and Think Tank.
  • Think Tank - The Think Tank is an exhibit detailing how zoologists study the thought and learning of animals, in particular the orangutans who can move freely between the Great Ape house and the Think Tank. There are interactive exhibits, encouraging visitors to explore how zoologists conduct studies, and holding tanks for the orangutans, including a touch screen computer orangutans can use as part of the research being conducted. A daily demonstration by a keeper details the various aspects of researching animal thought and can include watching an orangutan use the touch screen when it is operational.
  • Invertebrate Exhibit - The Zoo's Invertebrate Exhibit is home to dozens of invertebrate species, from coral to spiny lobsters to giant African millipedes to tarantulas to a giant Pacific octopus, and many more. Special demonstrations and activities occur throughout the day. The animals are housed in aquariums and terrestrial exhibits. A butterfly room/Pollinarium is also part of the exhibit.
  • Amazonia - The Zoo's Amazonia Exhibit leads visitors into the realm of the Amazon River Basin, where giant arapaima, pacu, sting rays, red-tailed catfish, and piranhas swim underwater, and sunbitterns, two-toed sloths, titi monkeys, and dart-poison frogs inhabit the world above. On the first floor, visit the Amphibian Alert exhibit to learn how Smithsonian scientists are working to prevent amphibian extinction. Visitors can see: lemur frogs, glass frogs, Panamanian golden frogs (extinct in the wild), and many more.
  • Small Mammal House - Most—but not all—of the Zoo's small mammals live in the Small Mammal House. In the Small Mammal House, you can gaze at the golden lion tamarin, the black and rufous giant elephant-shrew, the three-banded armadillo, and the quills of the prehensile-tailed porcupine. Naked mole-rats and tree shrews are often on the go. These are just some of the residents at the Small Mammal House. Collared peccaries live in a yard next to the Small Mammal House.
One of two tigers at the National Zoo
  • Lion/Tiger Hill- The Great Cats exhibit on Lion/Tiger Hill features Sumatran tigers and African lions—living, breathing, roaring great cats. They are ambassadors for their wild relatives, and for the Zoo’s conservation and science initiatives for tigers, lions, and many other cats.
  • The African Savannah and Cheetah Conservation Station –Visitors can see many African Species, including: cheetahs, Grevy’s zebras, oryx, dama gazelles, and Speke’s gazelles. Two maned wolves, native to South America, live at the Conservation Station. Two tammar wallabies live with an emu in the yard across from the maned wolves. The Cheetah Conservation Station lets visitors see cheetahs and zebras (separated by a fence) engaged in natural behaviors in a grassland setting similar to their natural savanna habitat.
  • Reptile Discovery Center - The Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center exhibits about 70 species of reptiles and amphibians. In June 2006, the exhibit got a facelift—new multimedia features, colorful graphics, and hands-on objects spotlight the fascinating lives of reptiles and amphibians. Visitors will see: Komodo dragons, Aldabra tortoises, boa constrictors, chameleon forest dragons, and many more varieties of turtles, snakes, lizards and frogs.
  • Bird House - The National Zoo is home to hundreds of birds from all over the world. Since birds are an integral part of virtually every ecosystem, it's not surprising that birds are all over the Zoo, too, as residents and visitors. Exhibit features include: the Crane Line, indoor exhibits, Indoor Flight Room (a free-flying jungle exhibit), outdoor flight cage, outside exhibits, South American run (featuring large birds from South America), and wetlands. Visitors can see: kiwis, cassowaries, cranes, flamingos, storks, king vultures, and many more.
  • Kids’ Farm - Kids' Farm is one of the National Zoo's newest exhibits. See how taking care of animals takes time, dedication, and knowledge. Step into the Barn to learn about alpacas, cows, donkeys, hogs, and goats. Explore the Pizza Garden to find out how pizza ingredients are grown.
  • Seals and Sea Lions Exhibit-- The National Zoo is building a new exhibit for its seals and sea lions. Visitors will be immersed in a multi-sensory experience that gives them the smell, sounds, look, and feel of the California coast, plus the chance to get up close to large marine mammals. They will have a chance to get their feet wet in an artificial tide pool and will learn about the delicate balance between human actions and the health of our coastlines. It will open by 2012.
  • Valley Trail - Beaver Valley, on the Zoo's forested Valley Trail, is home to many North American mammals and birds. Here you can see beavers, river otters, seals, Mexican wolves, bald eagles, and ducks. This section has closed for construction of Elephant Trails and construction of a new exhibit for seals and sea lions. Part of Beaver Valley will reopen in 2010.

Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear, the symbol of preventing wildfires.
Smokey Bear playing in his pool, sometime in the 1950s.

One of the most famous animals to have spent much of his life at the Zoo was Smokey Bear, the "living symbol" of the cartoon icon created as part of a campaign to prevent forest fires. A black bear cub rescued from a fire, he was part of the zoo from 1950 until his death in 1976. During his time at the zoo, he had millions of visitors and so much personal mail addressed to him—up to 13,000 letters a week—that the U.S. Post Office designated a special zip code for correspondence addressed to him.[19] During his time at the zoo, he was "married" to Goldie Bear, with the hope that one of his offspring would continue to hold the title of Smokey Bear. When the pair produced no offspring, an orphaned bear cub was added to their cage. It was named "Little Smokey," with the announcement that the bear couple had "adopted" the new cub. In 1975, an official ceremony was held to recognize the retirement of Smokey Bear and the new title of "Smokey Bear II" for Little Smokey.[19] Upon the death of the original Smokey Bear, The Washington Post printed an obituary, recognizing him as a "New Mexico native" who had resided in Washington, D.C., for many years, working for the government.[20][21]

Giant pandas

Tai Shan at the National Zoo.

Coming off the heels of President Richard Nixon's historic 1972 trip to China, the Chinese government donated two giant pandas, Ling-Ling (female) and Hsing-Hsing (male), to the official United States delegation. First Lady Pat Nixon donated the pandas to the zoo, where she welcomed them in an April 1972 ceremony.[22] The first pandas in America, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were among the most popular animals at the zoo.[22] Ling-Ling died in 1992 and Hsing-Hsing in 1999 without producing any cubs that survived into adulthood. (Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing had five cubs between 1983 and 1989, but all died[23] within a few days of birth.)

A new pair of pandas, female Mei Xiang ("Beautiful Fragrance") and male Tian Tian ("More and More"), arrived on loan from the Chinese government in late 2000.[24] The zoo pays an estimated 10 million dollars for the 10-year loan. On July 9, 2005, a male panda cub was born at the zoo; it was the first surviving panda cub birth in the zoo's history, and it was the product of artificial insemination done by the zoo's reproductive research team. The cub was named Tai Shan ("Peaceful Mountain") on October 17, 100 days after his birth; the panda went without a name for its first hundred days in observance of a Chinese custom. Tai Shan is property of the Chinese government and was scheduled to be sent to China after his second birthday, although that deadline was extended in 2007 by two years. Tai Shan left Washington D.C. on February 4, 2010 and was taken to the Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base, part of the Wolong nature reserve’s panda conservation center.

In January 2011, Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo, and Zang Chunlin, secretary general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, signed a new Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement, extending the Zoo’s giant panda program for five more years, further cementing the two countries’ commitment to the conservation of the species. The new agreement, effective immediately through Dec. 5, 2015, stipulates that the Zoo will conduct research in the areas of breeding and cub behavior.

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The Smithsonian established a Conservation Biology Institute in 2010 to serve as an umbrella for its global effort to conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. Headquartered in Front Royal, Virginia, the facility was previously known as the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center.[25]

The SCBI facilitates and promotes research programs based at Front Royal, at the National Zoo in Washington and at field-research and training sites around the world. Its efforts support one of the four main goals of the Smithsonian's new strategic plan, which advances "understanding and sustaining a biodiverse planet."[25]

Conservation biology is a field of science based on the premise that the conservation of biological diversity is important and benefits current and future human societies.[25]

The Institute consists of six centers:[25]

  • Conservation Ecology Center: The CEC focuses on recovering and sustaining at-risk wildlife species and their supporting ecosystems in key marine and terrestrial regions throughout the globe.
  • Migratory Bird Center: The Migratory Bird Center studies Neotropical songbirds and wetland birds, the role of disease in bird population declines, and the enironmental challenges facing urban and suburban birds. They also train professionals in environmental coffee certification throughout Latin America.
  • Center for Species Survival: The CSS scientists research issues in reproductive physiology, endocrinology, cryobiology, embryo biology, animal behavior, wildlife toxicology and assisted reproduction. They strive to create knowledge that ensures self-sustaining populations in zoos and in the wild.
  • Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics: Scientists at the CCEG work to understand and conserve biodiversity through genetic research. They specialize in the genetic management of wild and captive animal populations, non-invasive and ancient DNA alayses, systematics, disease diagnosis and dynamics, genetic services to the zoo community, and application of genetic methods to animal behavior and ecology.
  • Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability: Scientists at the CBES protect the planet's biodiversity by teaching conservation principles and practices. They work to find ways to help scientists, managers, companies and industries become more environmentally responsible. The CBES recruits, educates and intellectually equips the next generation of conservation professionals.
  • Center for Wildlife Health and Husbandry Sciences: The National Zoo is devoted to being a leader in animal care. Taking care of animals is a complex, demanding, multifaceted endeavor. The Center for Animal Health and Husbandry Science provides for the mental and physical well-being of every animal at the Zoo.


Between 1999 and 2005, mismanagement led to the accidental or neglectful deaths of around two dozen animals in the National Zoo's care, threatening the Zoo's accreditation and causing the resignation of its director, Lucy Spelman, at the end of 2004.[26] One incident involved the January 2003 death of two endangered red pandas after they ate vermin poison that had been buried in their yard by a contractor that was unlicensed in the District of Columbia. The incident led the city of Washington to seek to fine the zoo over its claim of federally granted immunity. In another notable incident in July 2003, a predator managed to enter an exhibit and kill a Bald Eagle, prompting the Washington Post to run a story with the headline "Nation's Emblem of Freedom Dies on Independence Day."[27] Zoo officials later stated that the animal was likely killed by a red fox.[28] In 2005, a three-year-old Sulawesi macaque named Ripley was killed in the Think Tank when two keepers were closing a hydraulic door. The keepers did not realize the monkey was in the doorway at the time they were closing the door. It was the third death that month at the National Zoo.[29] The insider source of most of the deaths and the interpretation on how they happened was a former zoo pathologist, Dr. Don Nichols. As a veterinarian, Dr. Spelman had practiced medicine on several of the animals that died and were featured in the Washington Post article based on Dr. Nichols' released insider information and his interpretation of circumstances. Although Dr. Nichols was perceived as a disgruntled former employee, his claims were taken very seriously. Errors in care, management and communications were found after a panel conducted an external investigation, including instances where veterinarians significantly altered legal medical records weeks and even years after events occurred.

The zoo's head veterinarian at the time, Dr. Suzan Murray, was accused and never cleared of personally altering medical records to make them sound more benign than what actually transpired,[30] often stating that medical records are not legal documents but rather "a user-friendly way of maintaining and sharing important information".[31] The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) specifically states "it is unethical for a veterinarian to remove ... medical records or any part of any record".[32]

In January 2005, the National Academy of Sciences released its final report on a two-year investigation into animal care and management at the National Zoo. The committee, consisting of external veterinarians and scientists, evaluated 74% of all large mammal deaths that occurred at the National Zoo from 1999 to 2003. They concluded that "in a majority of cases, the animal received appropriate care throughout its lifetime. In particular, the committee’s evaluation of randomly sampled megavertebrate deaths at the Rock Creek Park facility revealed few questions about the appropriateness of these animals’ care, suggesting that the publicized animal deaths were not indicative of a wider, undiscovered problem with animal care at the Rock Creek Park facility."[33]

The problems at the zoo, which culminated with Dr. Spelman's resignation, included facilities and budget shortcomings, although the animal care problems were prominently highlighted. Dr. Suzan Murray continues to serve as the zoo's head veterinarian. One other veterinarian featured prominently in the inadequate care of animals at the zoo also remains on staff, but the zoo has added a new head pathologist and has added other veterinarians.[34]

In January 2006, the National Zoo euthanized an Asian elephant named "Toni" after a long time suffering from arthritis and poor body condition. Animal rights groups, specifically In Defense of Animals or IDA, leveled the accusation that inadequate care over her lifespan in captivity led to the conditions that ultimately led to her death. Later that year in December, a clouded leopard escaped from its new exhibit at the Asia Trails due to weak fencing used to confine it.[35]

Changes in 2011 and beyond

Dennis W. Kelly was named director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., effective February 15, 2010. As director, Kelly oversees the 163-acre (66 ha) facility in Rock Creek Park and the 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. Kelly, 56, was the president and CEO of Zoo Atlanta in Georgia from June 2003 until February 2010.

Kelly succeeded John Berry, who was the National Zoo director for three years until February 2009 when he resigned to become the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, under the Obama Administration. Steven Monfort, the Zoo’s associate director for conservation and science, served as the acting director between February 2009 and February 2010. As acting director, Monfort helped create The Global Tiger Initiative, a program between the Smithsonian and the World Bank Group to stabilize and restore wild tiger populations. He also strengthened the Zoo’s role in conservation education through a partnership with George Mason University. Monfort will continue as the associate director for conservation and science, as well as the director of the SCBI, the Smithsonian’s home for global studies of endangered species.

In spring 2008, the National Zoo began construction on Elephant Trails, an innovative new home for its Asian elephants. The exhibit will include an Elephant Exercise Trek and a state-of-the-art trail through one of the Zoo's most beautiful, wooded areas. Elephant Trails: A Campaign to Save Asian Elephants is a comprehensive breeding, education, and scientific research program. It is designed to help scientists care for elephants in zoos and save them in the wild. The Zoo's Elephant House closed to the public on September 14, 2009 to let the next phase of Elephant Trails get underway. On warm days, the Zoo's three elephants are on view outside during exhibit hours but may occasionally be inside (and out of view). The first part of the new two-part 52 million dollar project opened in September 2010, expanding the zoo's former elephant area with a 5,700-square-foot (530 m2) barn, two new yards (one with a pool), and a quarter-mile walkway through woods, where the animals can exercise.[36] The projected completion date for part two of the project is 2011.[37]

The new Seal and Sea Lion exhibit will focus on the dynamic environment of the central California coast. Wave machines will keep the water moving, giving the marine mammals a chance to swim within a changing environment. The sea lion pool will have underwater features for the animals to explore. The exhibit and facilities will be constructed using sustainable practices, in the spirit of the exhibition's conservation messages. Visitors will be immersed in a multi-sensory experience that gives them the smell, sounds, look, and feel of the California coast, plus the chance to get up close to large marine mammals. They will have a chance to get their feet wet in an artificial tidepool and will learn about the delicate balance between human actions and the health of our coastlines. The Zoo's California sea lions have temporarily moved to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and its gray seals have been moved to an off-exhibit area at the Zoo. The animals will return upon the new exhibit's opening in 2012.[38]

See also

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  • Perry Lions – the lions that guard the entrance to the Zoo


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  19. ^ a b "The Big Picture," May 27, 2010.
  20. ^ John Kelly's Washington, Washington Post, April 25, 2010.
  21. ^ "New Mexico Town Still Celebrate's Smokey Bear's Legend," The Free Library.
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  24. ^ National Geographic News @
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  27. ^ Valerie Strauss Bald Eagle Killed in Attack at National Zoo: Nation's Emblem of Freedom Dies on Independence Day After Fight With Unknown Animal, The Washington Post. (July 6, 2003, Accessed 3-29-2007
  28. ^ Griff Witte "Crafty Fox No Surprise, But Attack Is a Stumper", The Washington Post. (July 19, 2003), Accessed 3-29-2007
  29. ^ WTOP News Website
  30. ^ "Changed Veterinary Records". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  31. ^ "Response From Chief Veterinarian Suzan Murray About Changes to Veterinary Notes". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  32. ^ Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the AVMA
  33. ^
  34. ^ "National Zoo Faulted; Chief Quits". CBS News. 2004-02-25. Retrieved 2008-06-10. 
  35. ^ Wilgoren, Debbi. "What's New at the National Zoo?". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  36. ^ ["Washington Zoo Debuts New, Larger Home for Elephants, Washington Post, September 3, 2010.]
  37. ^ National Zoo website.
  38. ^ [4],

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