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ZooPerson163 t1_j1wxcia wrote

Zoo employee here and throw away account for obvious reasons. Separating from FONZ means the zoo lost our entire events team. We basically have two people doing the work of 25, without the help of volunteers. The company who used to install all of the lights went out of business this year and we had difficulty finding another contractor so we did the best we could. The zoo also doesn’t have a ton of money to run these events - we took a big financial hit during the pandemic. Also, animal houses are closed because we did stress studies on the animals over previous years and found their stress levels were higher when lights were on longer and when they were exposed to guests for longer hours. Believe it or not, most animals sleep a lot during the day and the disruption to their normal quiet hours was detrimental to their well being. It’s a welfare decision to close animal houses - one all of the zookeepers adamantly support. We also have less vendors this year, no snow tubing, minimal entertainment. Sorry - we know it’s not as good, but appreciate you coming! We’re doing nightly evaluations and taking suggestions from guests in an effort to improve it for next year.


Pipes_of_Pan t1_j1zfvq5 wrote

Thanks for the thorough answer - we love the zoo and appreciate you!


InvisibleBuilding t1_j201hd7 wrote

Thank you.

Out of curiosity - why did the zoo take a big financial hit? It’s free (except parking) and taxpayer funded. Was the parking revenue a big amount?

It feels to me often like the zoo doesn’t really want people there. It built the ticket booths and has been more closed off. The wayfinding isn’t great. And there’s the constant debate about whether to allow people to use the part of the walk/bike trail that goes technically through zoo property (outside the fence, but between the main zoo and the research facility).

I’d love to know the zoo people actually do want to make a great zoo people love to go to, but compared to other zoos sometimes it feels like the attitude is “we get our funding whether or not you come and so we’d just as soon you not.” But it’s be great to hear that’s not the case.


DCSubi t1_j20kduz wrote

It is free bc it is partially funded by the gov but it needs to fundraise the difference. Memberships and parking is/was one of the fundraising streams. The large events raise money through corporate sponsorships (for instance you might remember seeing Pepco’s name at zoo lights) and some of the evens (like the Halloween event) raised money through ticket sales. 3rd party/outside vendors set up along the main walk prob shared their profits as another revenue stream for the zoo. So, it makes sense that it all took a hit during peak SAH COVID. But the Smithsonian is not doing itself any favors with the way it handled dissolving FONZ - in terms of how it treated the FONZ employees and the visitor experience.


InvisibleBuilding t1_j20muue wrote

Yeah, I think the zoo would find a lot of enthusiasm from the community to support it, if it acted like it wanted the community to be there.