Call Me Stormy

Finding righteous currents in turbulent times

How to Save Our Zoos

In nature, rare and endangered animals fight for their lives against poachers and predators. In publicly owned zoos, they face different but no-less lethal dangers: politics and budget woes. That problem will only get worse as local governments come to terms with decades of out-of-control spending and declining tax revenues.

For six years straight, notes Leonard Gilroy, the Reason Foundation’s director of government reform, cities have seen declines in overall revenues – and that situation isn’t expected to improve dramatically anytime soon. In such an environment, says Gilroy, city governments rightly focus on core activities such as law enforcement and infrastructure. Given that public zoos on average get 40 percent of their budgets from taxes, shrinking public dollars means reducing operating hours, deferring maintenance, raising ticket prices, cutting education programs, and laying off workers.

The best solution? Privatize the zoos by turning over most or all of their operations to nonprofits and other groups that generally have more interest, resources and expertise in caring for animals and drawing crowds.

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