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D.C.’s biggest fans of spineless creatures are not letting the National Zoo’s Invertebrate House go without a fight.

Bethesda resident Terri Jacobson started a Change.org petition to try and keep the Invertebrate House open after the National Zoo announced this week that it would close the exhibit to save money. The exhibit costs $1 million annually and requires about $5 million in upgrades.

The petition has gathered more than 750 signatures and counting.
“Long-time visitors have fond and educational memories of their visits to the Invertebrate House, which exhibits cuttlefish, octopi, blue crabs, anemones, orb-weaving spiders, honeybees, leaf-cutter ants, and butterflies, among many other species,” the petition reads. “The closure of the Invertebrate House leaves the National Zoo with no invertebrate exhibit.  Yet, as numerous as they are on the planet, invertebrates remain so unstudied that major new discoveries are still being made in publicly-funded museum research programs.”

(Note: The petition says the National Zoo spent $53 million to house its pandas, but that money was used to renovate the entire Asian Trail, which is home to a number of different animals.The giant panda yards were renovated as part of that project, but not the panda house.)

This isn’t the only backlash the zoo has received for its decision. When the National Zoo announced the closure on its Facebook page, it received more than 350 comments on the post, with people calling the decision “horrible” and “short-sighted”

“Just when pollinators need public attention the most,” one commenter wrote.

Wired published an article this week explaining why invertebrates are so critical. “Invertebrates are 97 percent of all described animal species on earth. They are 80 percent of all multicellular species, plants and animals combined,” Gwen Pearson wrote. “The absence of this major group from any educational facility is problematic.”

But it doesn’t seem like the zoo is budging on its money-saving decision.
“We’re very sad that the Invertebrate House is closing,” zoo spokeswoman Devin Murphy told City Desk. “Unfortunately, it is going to close. Saturday is going to be the last day that it is going to be open.”

“The Zoo says that animals currently in the Invertebrate House will be sent to different exhibits within the National Zoo, be transferred to other zoos, or, if they have short lifespans, “will likely live out their lives in the Invertebrate Exhibit.” Murphy says that future plans for a Hall of Biodiversity will include invertebrates.  Murphy says that in cases where invertebrates are very old or sick the zoo may elect to euthanize them. “No healthy invertebrates will be euthanized,” she says.

Fans of the Invertebrate House, it looks like Saturday is your day.

Photo via National Zoo.