Saturday, March 7, 2015

News Article - What Does this All Mean for Our Chimps?

News article from Friday 3.6.15:

Actually going to post the article in full, as I was told by someone that they couldn't view the whole text on the site. 

>>> Just when it seemed like there couldn’t be any more monkey business at the troubled San Francisco Zoo, along comes the sad story of its three elderly chimpanzees and their less-than-stellar accommodations that could cost the institution its accreditation.

The smiley, hirsute creatures were a family of four until matriarch Tallulah died in 2013 of heart disease complicated by breast cancer. The beloved trickster was known for occasionally escaping her confines to hit the snack bar or fiddle with pay phones — and zoo legend has it that her face was the muse for the equally beloved “Star Wars” character, Yoda.

Her death prompted the zoo’s accrediting body, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, to recommend that the remaining three chimps — Cobby, Minnie and Maggie — be moved to another facility because the animals do best socially when they’re in larger groups.

Tanya Peterson, executive director of the zoo, said that she asked instead to keep the three chimps and add a fourth, but that the association also considered that plan problematic.

“The concern was that our aging facility wasn’t state-of-the-art and may not be suitable for a younger chimpanzee,” Peterson said.

The zoo has drawn up plans for a new chimpanzee enclosure, but it will cost close to $10 million to build. The eye-popping figure will be tough to reach considering the zoo is already fundraising for a $6 million South American Tropical Rainforest and Aviary building that will house birds, reptiles, a sloth and a 15-foot anaconda.

We would have bet that raising money for chimps would have been an easier sell than sloths and anacondas, but Peterson said that’s not the case.

“The chimpanzee exhibit wasn’t speaking to some of our major donors,” Peterson said. “Everybody has their favorite animals, and I think there is a population that really cares about birds.”

Birds are great, but better than cuddly chimpanzees that look like Yoda? We think not.

Far short of the necessary funds, Peterson then went looking for a new home for the chimps, even visiting a Florida amusement park that also keeps animals. (It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.)

She said she was impressed by the facility, but that it already has 19 chimps, and she was worried the San Francisco primates would have a hard time adjusting to such a large group. While many senior citizens relocate to Florida, Peterson determined that Cobby, who at 57 is downright ancient for a chimp and one of the oldest male chimps in captivity anywhere, would have an especially hard time with the move.

So Peterson is back to trying to finagle $10 million out of rich people who aren’t particularly enamored with chimps and is making smaller improvements to the current chimp enclosure in the meantime. The improvements include more time with zoo staff and more chutes to climb on.

Peterson said the accrediting association can’t make the zoo give up its chimps, but it can take away its accreditation, which allows zoos to receive federal funds, win financial support from foundations and exchange animals with other accredited zoos.

The accreditation was up in the air after the death of two elephants at the zoo in 2004, but was eventually renewed in 2006 and again in 2011. The credentials are good for five years.

The accreditation “is important to us,” Peterson said.

The uncertainty comes as just one more blow to the zoo, which in November lost its baby gorilla, Kabibe, after she was crushed to death under an electric door. Five zookeepers who work with primates told The Chronicle that the 30-year-old gorilla enclosure had a flawed layout, faulty doors and inadequate staffing — and that Kabibe’s death could have been prevented.

The past 11 years have not been kind to the zoo — or, one could say, the animals in it. In 2004, two elephants died, and an angry Board of Supervisors voted to move the zoo’s remaining two elephants to an animal sanctuary.

In 2007, three giant eland African antelope from the San Diego Wild Animal Park were moved to the zoo and put in a single indoor stall where two of them died. Right around the same time, a hippo named Puddles died following a move to new quarters that employees said was bungled.

Most famously, of course, a tiger escaped from her enclosure in 2007 and killed a 17-year-old visitor to the zoo. The tiger enclosure’s wall was four feet lower than recommended national standards.

In a Chronicle op-ed just after the recent baby gorilla death, Peterson — who took the top post in 2008 — said the zoo receives just over $4 million a year from the city, an amount that hasn’t changed since the 1990s. The zoo’s annual operating expenses top $17 million annually, meaning the zoo must rely on donors and operational funds (such as admissions, memberships, food sales and increasingly expensive train and carousel rides) to make up the difference.

Rehabilitating exhibits that date back to the Great Depression is, therefore, a depressing proposition.

“No doubt we are an 85-year-old zoo,” Peterson told us. “I feel like we’re like the Golden Gate Bridge: We just have to continually improve.”

Likening an old, tired facility to the Golden Gate Bridge might be a stretch, but Peterson said the zoo has “a lot we can feel proud about.” She pointed to the African Savanna exhibit, the two new red pandas and the Lipman Family Lemur Forest.

Don’t tell the chimps that even the lemurs are faring better than they are. By the way, if you’re a fan of the zoo’s chimps, you can help fund their new home by visiting and donating to “Help the Chimps.”<<<

Good Grief, where to start.  Yesterday, it was the issue of whether the Chimps are actually getting an upgrade and/or New Exhibit.  Now, this article makes the situation seem like even though its off shady ground, its on shaky ground.

At least this article makes note of the upgrades, while fundraising for the new exhibit.  BUT I do not like the toss of "accreditation" into the mix.  What happens if no money for either comes through and Zoo is threatened with accreditation loss?  Will the commitment to Keep the Chimps be reneged?

Another thing about accreditation.  They note one of the downfalls of not having it is they "won't be able to exchange animals ,... "  Maybe if they didn't have accreditation, they wouldn't keep bringing in new and shiny Animals that take away from the needs of the animals currently living there.

So, once I waded through the inconsistencies that brought the Chimps plight to light, what I ended up with was the boo hoo story about accreditation and funds.  I'm sorry but I have to get this out of the way now.  I have been thankful to Director Peterson, for whatever reason, for making the decision to let Our Chimps Stay Home.  BUT in light of the neglect and disregard shown to the Chimps over the last thirty years, I do not want to hear crying poor, or anything else out of the Zoo.  Money for the Chimps was misappropriated/misplaced/misused, whatever in 1997.  Peterson wasn't there, but the Zoo has the same Financial Officer Wayne Reading.  Together they need to figure it out and give the Chimps what they are due!  A decent home to live out their lives here in SF.

If the Zoo under Peterson's management, hadn't spent money on a Tiki Hut, Overnight Camping area, Art Installation Showcase that takes up half of the Pachyderm House (where an Animal lives and could have used an expanded area), among other unnecessary and non-animal related crap, they would have some extras funds.  While painting the Pachyderm building for that project, Cobby sat at the top of his structure, watching them for days. I saw him, I filmed him.   He was probably wondering why his home wasn't getting painted.  Disgraceful.

Peterson is quoted in the article referring to fundraising already "for the Tropical Aviary".  WELL, the Chimps were in need before SHE prioritized the Aviary, which only had one Resident Animal at the time.  Since then she has authorized the acquisition of a literal houseful of new residents for that building.  If she cared like she says she does, the Chimps would have been at the forefront of fundraising for years prior to this.  I know at least one Zoo Fest was for the Aviary, one for her North American area,  I don't remember one for the Chimps?   

Also noted was a tale about Chimps being a hard sell to Donors.  I'm sure people do have their favorites.  I believe Director Peterson does.  Fact still remains, there has been NO fundraiser specifically for the Chimps.  I do not believe that if a Zoo Fest was for the Chimps specifically that Donors would come and never open their check books.  AND if that did happen and does, SHAME on every one of the Donors and Members of the San Francisco Zoological Society, for not caring about these Senior Residents.  

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with all you have stated. I am sure donors would be glad to open wallets in whatever is needed for our beloved zoo. I would love to see some accountability from the finance officer.


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