Hear ye of youthful hearts: Better get your fill of bunnies in the next few months, because the five-year-old Kids Farm at the National Zoo has fallen victim to federal belt-tightening, and will close by late spring.
In the first round of budget cuts, the Zoo was directed to reduce its budget by $500,000 in fiscal year 2012—a not-insignificant chunk of its $23 million yearly allocation for animal care and sciences. The Kids Farm costs $250,000 per year to operate with three staffmembers, and given that it hosts no endangered species and is not a part of the Zoo’s research activities, it was an easy thing to lose. The rest of the money will have to come from yet-to-be determined staff positions.
“The kids farm is very important to me personally,” said Zoo director Dennis Kelly. “But it is a change that we can affect relatively quickly and relatively safely for the animals.”
The barn and grounds will simply be mothballed, or modified slightly for non-animal use, such as classes. As for the 20 donkeys, alpacas, cows, goats, hogs and rabbits: The Zoo is working hard to find them all good homes, and visiting each prospective destination.
The decision, of course, is reversible if funds become available. According to Kelly, the best solution would be to permanently endow the kids farm—just $5 million would do it, if you’ve got some spare change burning a hole in your pocket.