Update - Invertebrate Exhibit

Thank you for expressing your appreciation for the National Zoo's Invertebrate Exhibit and your concern about its closing. We value your feedback and would like to clarify why we have made this very difficult decision.

When the Invertebrate Exhibit opened in 1987, it was a groundbreaking venue. As time progressed, the cost of repairing and replacing dilapidated equipment combined with the fact that the exhibit is in the basement of a 1930s building presented real challenges. By our calculations, completing all necessary infrastructure upgrades at this time would cost about $5 million. You probably read that our 20 Year Programmatic Master Plan includes a Hall of Biodiversity. The concept is preliminary but the vision calls for invertebrates to return in that new exhibit. It is a ways off. Keeping the Invertebrate Exhibit open for the next 15 years requires $1 million annually for operations and $5 million for the infrastructure bringing the total to $20 million.

We have several other fundraising priorities which preclude us from launching a $20 million campaign for the invertebrates to stay in their existing space. We're in the middle of a multi-million dollar campaign to renovate our 1920s Bird House to create the first-of-its kind exhibit about birds and migration. When the time comes, we will fundraise for the Hall of Biodiversity. Because we are committed to providing the best animal care possible, we feel strongly that moving these animals to other accredited zoos—ones that have new state-of-the-art facilities—is the right decision. It will give them the best opportunity to survive, thrive, and contribute to their species through breeding programs.

We are committed to finding the best possible homes for all the animals and will not euthanize healthy invertebrates. While unlikely, there may be individual specimens where quality-of-life or untreatable disease concerns would lead to a recommendation for humane euthanasia. Once the exhibit closes to the public on Sunday, June 22 our staff will begin the process of relocating the animals, which will take a lot of time. The Zoo and our Invertebrate Exhibit staff remain committed to the welfare of these animals and will find suitable permanent homes for the collection.

We hope you will visit our sister institution, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to experience the O. Orkin Insect Zoo and the invertebrates and corals in the Sant Ocean Hall. Our website will continue to be a place to learn about invertebrates and their critical role in maintaining global biodiversity. Our leading research on coral reef conservation with modern fertility techniques continues.

I understand your frustration with the timing of our announcement. As you may be aware, all five members of our invertebrates animal care team will stay at the Zoo and be reassigned to animal houses/areas where we have vacancies or need extra support. I seriously weighed the staff workload, quality of visitor experience combined with the needs of the public, and consideration of our team before making the final decision. This is an extremely hard decision for our zoo community but especially hard on the dedicated and passionate staff who work in the exhibit. We need to ensure that our keepers are well positioned to transition the animal collection and also to their new positions. The shorter timeline allows for the transition to start and I apologize if this has disappointed you. Our amazing volunteers will also be offered different opportunities around the Zoo.

We're committed to telling conservation stories in every corner of the Zoo with every animal species. Absolutely, we understand the vital role of invertebrates in our ecosystems and we will do our best to educate the public about invertebrates wherever possible. We hope that this and all exhibits (past, present and future) inspire the next generation of conservationists. I'm pleased that the Invertebrate Exhibit had such an impact on you and so many visitors.

Thank you for sharing your passion for the Zoo.


Dennis Kelly