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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report 1 Introduction ZOOS Collections of wild and exotic animals have been maintained in menageries by the powerful and wealthy since the time of the pharaohs. However, the first known public collection of caged animals to be constructed in a park-like setting was in Vienna, Austria; it was inaugurated in 1752 (Reichenbach, 2002) and opened to the general public in 1779 (Vienna Zoo, 2004). The term zoo originated later, probably in the middle of the 19th century, as an abbreviation for the name of the Zoological Garden in Regent’s Park, London. That zoo, which opened in 1828, and the earlier one created at Versailles, near Paris, around the beginning of the 18th century were intended as scientific laboratories for studying live animals (Croke, 1997; Hancock, 2001; Baratay and Hardouin-Fugier, 2002; Reichenbach, 2002). But, like similar zoos established later throughout urban Europe and North America, those institutions quickly became places of entertainment and relaxation for working people. The National Zoological Park (National Zoo) in Washington is a good example. Created in 1889 by an act of Congress, the National Zoo became part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1890. Its original mission was “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people” (NZP, 2004). The National Zoo quickly became a crowd pleaser, attracting large numbers of visitors from the local populace (Croke, 1997). The popularity of zoos continues today. In 2000, over 134 million people visited zoos, aquariums, and wildlife parks accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA)—more than the combined attendance at professional baseball, football, and basketball events (AZA, 2000a). The popularity of zoos is both a challenge to and a dilemma for modern zoo staffs, which must balance the entertainment value of the zoological park with other equally important and demanding zoo missions. Much has been written about the modern zoo and about how zoos are evolving to keep pace with public tastes, to deal with thorny ethical issues, and to establish and define their roles in conservation, education, and research (Tarpy, 1993; Hutchins and Conway, 1995; Kelly, 1997; Ebersole, 2001; Praded, 2002; Conway 2003; Hutchins, 2003; Hutchins and Smith, 2003; Knowles, 2003). The nation’s outstanding zoos have transformed themselves over the last 30 years in response to a variety of external pressures and emerging viewpoints. The number of species in a zoo’s collection no longer rates it as excellent or poor. Instead, it is how the exhibits are designed, how the animals are managed, the quality of the educational and scientific programs, and, most recently, the efforts to conserve species that determine the quality of an institution. Whether a zoo is successful in achieving and maintaining excellence by reforming its infrastructure and mission depends not only on the financial resources available to it but on focused and dedicated leadership and staff, short-and long-term vision and strategic planning, and organizational structure. No longer can zoological parks be mere repositories of caged animals organized primarily for public viewing and for observation by a few resident staff scientists. Three related movements appear to have caused zoos to reinvent themselves in the last half century (Hutchins, 2003; Hutchins and Smith, 2003). First, beginning as early as the 1930s at such places as the Bronx Zoo, curators and the educated public became concerned about the physical and psychologic well-being of captive animals and about the needs of many of the animals for more space and more hospitable, natural surroundings (Conway, 2003; Kirkwood, 2003; Sheperdson, 2003). What started as a small movement at a few top zoos to improve the lives of the animals has become all but a requirement at accredited institutions and has been limited less by a reluctance to change than by the availability of funds and space. Space is a particular problem for urban zoos, where a new or renovated exhibit can occupy several acres in a compact park setting. Second, there is an increasing aversion to collecting animals from the wild (Hutchins et al., 1996; Hancocks, 2001). Not only has such a practice become expensive and politically charged, it has generally been perceived as counter to the conservation ideal except when a species was hovering on the brink of extinction and needing protection from ultimate destruction or when there was a need to broaden the genetic diversity of a captive species. Nearly 90% of the mammals and 70% of the birds in a modern zoo collection are now bred in captivity under careful management schemes that seek to avoid inbreeding (Hutchins et al., 1996)—a commendable improvement over past practice but one that can lead to surplus animals unless properly controlled (AZA, 2000b).
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Third, it is recognized that species are becoming extinct at rates unprecedented since the end of the Cretaceous geologic period 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared from the earth. The primary cause of this emerging tragedy is human activity with its accompanying destruction and fragmentation of habitat (Wilson, 1989; Reaka-Kudla et al., 1996). The concept of the “zoo ark” emerged as a way for zoos to rescue endangered species and possibly to reintroduce them into the wild (Beck et al., 1994; Stanley-Price and Soorae, 2003). Perhaps more important, zoos have positioned themselves, with the support of their members and visitors, as centers for conservation of wildlife (AZA, 1987; Tarpy, 1993; Hutchins and Conway, 1995; Kelly, 1997; Ebersole, 2001; Praded, 2002; Conway 2003; Hutchins, 2003; Hutchins and Smith, 2003; Knowles, 2003). Each of those ideals—exhibits that cater to animal well-being and public education, captive breeding programs, and survival of species in their natural habitats—has become an essential aspect of the mission of most world-class zoos. Thus, zoos continue to be popular places of entertainment but must continually make adjustments to have a meaningful role in modern society. At their best, they are organizations dedicated to conservation, education, and science, and they exhibit an array of species to reflect these ideals. At their worst, they are shameless indulgences. Exhibits in a world-class zoo are designed in a manner that is sensitive to the physical and psychologic needs of their animals. The best zoos employ expert veterinarians, pathologists, nutritionists, and other professionals dedicated to the animals they care for and to wildlife conservation. They are institutions of education and learning, providing both on-site and outside training opportunities for their staff and using state-of-the-art electronic communication to assist these efforts. Modern zoos have become responsive to the unprecedented declines in wildlife population and habitat destruction by promoting captive breeding programs, interinstitutional cooperation, and off-site conservation. Increasingly, they have to be concerned with their public image in the mass media, with raising funds, and with promoting cooperative interactions with other zoos to live up to their core missions. As a result of those activities and responsibilities, zoos have become complex structures that place great demands on leadership and on communication among management, staff, and the general public. BASIS OF THE INTERIM AND FINAL REPORTS On March 5, 2003, the US House of Representatives Committee on House Administration held an oversight hearing on the Smithsonian Institution. During the hearing, questions were raised regarding animal care and management at the National Zoo. On the basis of questions raised during the hearing, Congress requested a science-based review by the National Academies on the quality and effectiveness of animal care and management at the zoo. In response to the request, the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources and Institute for Laboratory Animal Research of the National Research Council convened the Committee on the Review of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park to conduct the review. The detailed charge to the committee is as follows: A committee of experts will be appointed to assess the quality and effectiveness of animal management, husbandry, and care at the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. and the Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia. The study will identify strengths, weaknesses, needs, and gaps in the current infrastructure and provide recommendations on changes needed to ensure effective management and care of the National Zoo's animal collection. The study will provide a description of the system currently in place, the elements and characteristics of that system, and the changing nature of concerns surrounding the system. The committee will examine the historic and recent problems with animal health and animal science practices at the zoo, including recent reports on zoo operations and a scientific examination of the causes of recent animal deaths. The committee will review the NZP within the context of the larger zoo community, identifying unique aspects of the environment in which the NZP operates. The committee will evaluate the communication and coordination of the various divisions of the zoo that impact animal care, analyze the use of resources, and outline attributes of an enhanced system to ensure the health and well-being of the animals at the NZP. In addition, the committee will evaluate recent and ongoing changes in zoo operations. An interim report identifying the most pressing issues in animal care and management and aspects of the system in
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report need of immediate attention, will be delivered at the end of the initial 6 months of the study. A final report that provides a comprehensive assessment of the zoo, outlines attributes of an enhanced system to ensure the health and well-being of the animals, and includes the committee's final recommendations, will be delivered at the end of 12 months. In view of the complexity of the National Zoo, any review of the institution that focuses narrowly requires a range of expertise. Accordingly, the assembled committee contains persons experienced in zoo management and operations, nutrition, veterinary practices and procedures, pathology, industrial management, leadership and group relations, toxicology, occupational safety and health, animal disease, zookeeping, animal welfare, and animal physiology. Interim Report Because of Congress’s concerns about animal care and management at the zoo and to allow progress at the zoo and prompt feedback on the zoo’s actions, Congress requested an interim report on the committee’s findings. The committee was charged to identify the “most pressing issues in animal care and management and aspects of the system in need of immediate attention.” Congress requested that the committee develop a report that was intentionally narrowly focused on the concerns that the committee deemed the most important to the “health and well-being of the animals.” To that end, the committee focused on the subjects that needed the most attention either because they were detrimental to the health and welfare of the animals or the staff or because they were crucial to the operational structure of the organization. The interim report focused on animal care and management, recordkeeping, pest management, and mission and strategic planning. In the interim report, the committee noted that the zoo had several deficiencies that affected the care and management of the animal collection. The Rock Creek Park facility had a preventive-medicine program that was not fully implemented. The nutrition program had failed in a number of respects, including communication with keepers, standardization and evaluation of protocols, maintenance of adequate records, and implementation of a centralized commissary although there were adequate facilities. There was a lack of required documentation that the welfare of animals had been adequately considered during the development of research programs, Function of the institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs) at both the Rock Creek Park and Conservation and Research Center (CRC) facilities was poor. There was a lack of familiarity with federal regulatory requirements despite provision of information to the Rock Creek Park IACUC chairman by the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Sponsored Projects outlining the information needed for compliance with the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Smithsonian Institution, Foss memo, February 27, 2003; June 27, 2003). Finally, there had been poor adherence to the zoo’s own policies and procedures for animal health and welfare, such as those for euthanasia and quarantine. The other concerns addressed in the interim report included recordkeeping, pest management, and strategic planning. Records were found to be incomplete, hard to retrieve, inconsistent in format, and in some cases altered. Pest management, although improving, appeared to pose a threat to animals unless the best practices of integrated pest management were implemented. The committee also noted that the zoo had been operating without a strategic plan for over 10 years although development of one was recommended by the AZA accreditation report in 1992 and 1997 (AZA, 1992; 1997). That lack of planning jeopardized the long-term operation and the focusing of resources at the zoo at a time when there was a clear need for facility revitalization and renovation of the animal collection. The committee noted that the zoo had been in decline for many years and was beginning to show signs of improvement but that many critical weaknesses remained and needed to be addressed immediately. Final Report This final report provides a comprehensive assessment of the zoo, including an evaluation of the CRC and an evaluation of how the zoo responded to the interim report. In addition to the concerns that were raised in the interim report, this report raises concerns that the committee felt deserved attention from the Smithsonian Institution and zoo staff but were not immediately detrimental to the animals or the staff, including training and human-resources concerns that could not be addressed by the zoo in the short term. The committee also conducted an
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report examination of the zoo’s recent animal deaths and a random sample of medical records at both the Rock Creek Park and CRC facilities to determine the quality of care. The report also provides the zoo and Congress with the committee’s final conclusions and recommendations on the most important changes needed to ensure high-quality care and management of the animals at the zoo. THE NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL PARK To appreciate the scope of the final report and of the interim report, it is necessary to consider briefly the history of the zoo, its budget, its operations, and its main missions. As noted above, the zoo was created by an act of Congress in 1889 for “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people”; in 1890, the zoo became part of the Smithsonian Institution (NZP, 2004). The current mission of the zoo, “to celebrate, study, and protect the diversity of animals” (NRC, 2003b), is not much different from Congress’s initial intent. In 1974, the CRC was founded, expanding the zoo’s role in research (NRC, 2003b). The zoo is one of 16 museums in the Smithsonian complex, from which it receives most of its budget. On March 17, 2004, the zoo received a renewal of its AZA accreditation, which will last until September 2008. It is one of 213 zoos and aquariums accredited by AZA (AZA, 2003b). The CRC was also granted certification as an AZA-certified related facility in March 2003 (AZA, Healy letter, June 2, 2003); CRC certification is due to expire in March 2008. Budget In FY 2004, the federal appropriation in direct support of the zoo was approximately $28.4 of its total operating budget of approximately $ 39.9million (note that the total operating budget from Table 1-1 of the interim report erroneously included the operating budget of the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) – a nonprofit entity separate from the zoo). In FY 2003, the federal appropriation to the zoo was about $24.3 million of a total operating budget of $38.9 million, which includes business income, grants, gifts, and support from FONZ. The FY 2005 request for federal appropriations in direct support of the zoo is $30.57 million of an estimated total operating budget of at least $36 million; the operating budget estimate does not include an estimate of FONZ support of zoo programs (NZP, Budget Overview, August 12, 2004) The zoo received $18.75 million for capital improvement from Congress in 2003, and $28.22 million in 2004. The zoo has requested $21.50 million in federal appropriations for capital improvement in 2005; estimates for revitalization at the zoo for 2006 through 2009 can be found in table 8-2.. These figures represent updated budgetary information from the information presented in Tables 1-1 and 1-2 of the interim report. Unlike most other zoos that receive substantial public funding, the zoo does not charge admission for its estimated 2 million-plus annual visitors. Despite its quasigovernment status, the zoo is a complex business operation that depends on private, as well as federal, support for its operations. Locations The zoo consists of two campuses. The original site is on 166 acres of Rock Creek Park in northwest Washington, DC. It is open to the public 364 days a year and houses the majority of the present collection of over 2,500 animals of about 420 species. The second site is the 3,200-acre CRC at Front Royal, VA, about 65 miles from downtown Washington, DC. It is not generally open to the public except on special “open” days, when the center showcases its science. The CRC serves as a conservation facility and a laboratory for propagating a few rare species. It also trains wildlife biologists from the United States and abroad. A detailed critique of animal-care and management practices at the CRC is provided in Chapter 5 of this report. The two campuses participate as partners in conducting the three major missions of first-class modern zoos; education, research, and conservation.
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report Personnel Day-to-day operations of the zoo involve employees and volunteers within the organization, professionals in other parts of the Smithsonian, advisory boards, and others outside the zoo, including contractors, who work primarily to maintain the animals and physical plant. The organizational structure (NZP, NZP Organizational Structure, July 24, 2003) is shown in Figure 1-1 of the interim report. The structure is characterized by a hierarchic distribution of management authority and responsibility. At the apex of the structure is the zoo director, who interacts with three advisory bodies: FONZ, the National Zoo Advisory Board, and the CRC Foundation. The director is supported by a deputy director. The zoo has eight departments, which operate essentially independently. Departments are led by assistant directors who report to the zoo director and deputy director. The Department of Animal Programs (Figure 1-2 of the interim report) has primary responsibility for the day-to-day care and management of the animal collections at the Rock Creek Park facility. Assistant curators report to associate curators (who in turn report to the general curator) and are generally people who have worked in the zoo for many years. The Department of Animal Health includes veterinary and nutrition staff (Figure 1-4, interim report). The Department of Pathology has primary responsibility for examining animal deaths and administers the pest-management program (Figure 1-5, interim report). The other four departments are Public Affairs and Communications, Administration and Technology, Exhibits and Outreach, and the Police. The CRC has primary responsibility for the day-to-day care and management of the animal collections at the Front Royal facility; its structure is presented in Chapter 5 of this report. Animal Collection The status of the animal collection has been reviewed in detail in Chapter 1 of the interim report. The collection includes about 2,600 animals of just over 400 species but has undergone dramatic changes in the last 10 years. From 1993 to 2002, the size of the animal collection decreased by 54% for several reasons, including a decrease in acquisitions and an increase in removal of animals. The number of animals acquired annually by the zoo was fairly stable from 1993 through 1999, but starting in 2000 there was a decline in the number; annual acquisitions decreased by 67% from 1999 to 2002. Even though annual acquisitions of animals remained relatively stable throughout the 1990s, the size of the animal collection continued to decline because the number of animals being removed from the collection each year through death or relocation to other institutions was greater than the number being acquired through birth or acquisition from other institutions. In particular, many animals were removed from the collection in 1995-1997 as a result of a deliberate reduction in the number of mammals held at the CRC and a large number of animal deaths, specifically of fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. The CRC also deliberately reduced the number of mammalian species in its inventory by about 40% during that period through relocation to other institutions. The decision to concentrate on only about 10 species that promised a high research return provided greater focus to the CRC research effort. In Chapter 4, the committee has attempted to provide a science-based objective assessment of mortality at the zoo and presents its findings on the recent animal deaths at the zoo. The National Zoo as Part of the Larger Zoo Community The committee attempted to place the zoo in the context of the larger zoo community by using data from AZA-accredited zoos (AZA, 2003b) on vertebrate-animal collection sizes, total staff numbers, and annual budgets. The comparison was based on information that is publicly available from AZA and individual zoos’ annual reports. The committee also attempted to gain information directly from individual zoos by asking for specific information on their collection sizes, budgets, personnel, veterinary care, nutrition, training, and communication. Because the committee received only five responses to its request, comparisons with other zoos were limited. Using AZA data (AZA, 2003b), the committee excluded an institution from its analysis if it was an aquarium, if more than 70% of its vertebrate collection was fish, or if no staff and budget data were available. Those criteria yielded 155 AZA-accredited institutions with which the zoo could be compared. Annual budgets of those zoos were about $60,000 to $89 million, with an average of $6.6 million (AZA, 2003b). The zoo budget was larger than those of 96% of the AZA-accredited zoos, and its staff size was in the 94th percentile. The vertebrate animal
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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report collection size was at the 89th percentile, with 2,278 specimens. The zoo had a ratio of vertebrate animals to staff of 7.8:1, a value lower than those of 72% of the AZA-accredited institutions. The ratios include all staff (animal-care, animal-health, research, administrative, service, and so on) reported by the institutions. About 50% of the zoo staff is involved directly in animal care and management (the Department of Animal Programs, the Department of Animal Health, the Department of Pathology, and the CRC Animal and Support Department). According to a previous National Research Council report (NRC, 2003b), the CRC science programs, number of staff, and disciplines represented are comparable with those of other zoos of similar size and status. It has about 30 staff scientists in disciplines that include reproductive biology, veterinary medicine, conservation biology, species recovery, genetics and genome-resources banking, and GIS spatial analysis for conservation; the Brookfield Zoo has about 25 scientists, the Institute of Zoology at the London Zoo about 22, and the San Diego Zoo about 35 (NRC, 2003b). The general conclusion that may be drawn from these introductory remarks is that the zoo ranks among the top 10% of zoos in the United States in annual funding, collection size, and staff. What the numbers do not show is that the zoo is also a major center of research and conservation science and that its direct federal support through Congress and its location in the nation’s capital endow it with a special aura and prominence. However, according to a random nationwide survey of 1,987 adults done by the Roper Organization (1992), only 25% of people say that they know a lot about the zoo, compared with 60% who say that they know a lot about Sea World and 40% about Busch Gardens and the San Diego Zoo (Roper, 1992). Although some would argue that the zoo is the nation’s zoo and that its well-being should be a matter of national and not just local concern, it may not yet be in the entire nation’s consciousness.
Representative terms from entire chapter: