budget cuts

Little Rock Zoo Loses Elephant Expansion Option

Little Rock Zoo, a measly 33 acres and bounded by urban land, recently lost its most viable option for expansion when the city decided to donate an empty stadium and its lot, not to the zoo as expected, but to the hospital.


Click HERE for video coverage

Little Rock Zoo is one of the few zoos in the country keeping elephants in their collections.  The land was to be used by the Zoo as an expansion to their current exhibit, in an effort to meet AZA requirements for keeping elephants. 

The requirements state that institutions holding elephants must keep at least three females in a group, and are recommending institutions have the ability to be used for breeding.  This means the Zoo would have to increase its size for at least one additional animal, as they currently have two females, and, if following the breeding route, would have to add space for at least one male.  All of this would also include increasing the safety and security of the current exhibit to bring it up to standards for housing bull elephants.  The Zoo estimated, rather loosely, that this project would cost between $10 and 20 million. 

One of the Zoo's two elephants.

Now that the stadium land option is gone, the Zoo intends to hear additional options for expansion, which includes crossing the highway passing along its southern border.  The future of the Little Rock Zoo remains to be seen, however, as pressure from the state capitol is pushing to move the zoo outside of the city proper, and the mayor is considering cutting the budget by $2 million. 

Here is a very good article about the history of the zoo, and its potential future.

New York Aquarium Facelift?

For years, it seems, the NY Aquarium has been flirting with revamping its exterior.  In 2006, the city hosted a design competition for that very reason.  Three very interesting finalists were chosen, and eventually, one winner announced. 

Smith-Miller + Hawkinson's Winning Design Concept

Then, this spring, that design was thrown out the window for apparently being too restrictive to potential future growth.  The next step, according to city officials, is to re-work the interior of the aquarium to attract new visitors. 

First on the plate? A new shark tank. The $50 million tank would triple the aquarium's current shark population to 40, and plans for the 300,000 gallon tank include an arch for guests to walk beneath.  For comparison, 300,000 gallons is approximately 1/18th the size of the Ocean Voyager tank at Georgia Aquarium.  $50 million for 300,000 gallons seems a bit pricey to me, so perhaps other unreported exhibits are included in that number.

Ocean Voyager's 6 million gallons at Georgia Aquarium

ny-aquarium_51142All of those plans are now moot, though, as the New York state government is proposing 55% budget cuts to all of the state's "living museums."  This includes the NY Aquarium, the Bronx Zoo, and the Botanical Gardens, amongst many others.  If this proposal passes, any redesign or renovation of the Aquarium is surely to die. 

Sadly, I'm awaiting news of these types of budget cuts to occur all across the U.S. and the world, as unfortunately, educational and entertainment budgets are always the first to go.  If your local zoo, aquarium, or living museum is currently facing major cutbacks, please let me know and I'll gladly post your story here.