National Zoo’s Invertebrate Exhibit, “home to dozens of small aquatic and terrestrial species without backbones”, closing Sunday

by Prince Of Petworth June 16, 2014 at 11:40 am 18 Comments

Photo: Jessie Cohen/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the National Zoo:

“The Smithsonian’s National Zoo Invertebrate Exhibit, home to dozens of small aquatic and terrestrial species without backbones, will close to the public Sunday, June 22. The last day to visit the Invertebrate House is Saturday, June 21.

“This difficult decision is not a reflection of the importance of invertebrates or how we feel about them,” said Dennis Kelly, Zoo director. “The exhibit has been a hidden gem cared for by passionate and expert staff. But this was a necessary decision for the financial and operational health of our organization.”

Closing the Invertebrate Exhibit permits the Zoo to reallocate funding, staff and resources to other areas of the Zoo that need attention. With overall costs escalating, the Zoo must adapt its activities and programs to live within its existing budget while continuing excellent animal care and planning for the future.

Every permanent staff person will retain their job and be reassigned to other positions throughout the Zoo. The Invertebrate Exhibit, as it exists today, is not included in the Zoo’s Strategic Five-Year Plan or its 20-Year Programmatic Master Plan. The long-term vision includes a future Hall of Biodiversity, which will include some invertebrate species. The annual operating cost for the Invertebrate Exhibit is $1 million. The exhibit currently needs an estimated $5 million in upgrades to equipment, life-support systems, building infrastructure and exhibit interpretation.

In 1987, the National Zoo opened the Invertebrate Exhibit in the basement of the Reptile Discovery Center. Hailed as a ground-breaking exhibit at the time, it allowed the Zoo to showcase and educate visitors about invertebrates as nature’s unsung heroes, quietly playing vital roles in Earth’s ecosystems. Invertebrates make up about 99 percent of all known living species. Today, the Invertebrate Exhibit is home to the common cuttlefish, corals, anemones, the Chesapeake Bay blue crab, water scorpions, the giant hermit crab, leaf-cutter ants, the American spiny lobster, giant clam and butterflies, among others.

Per Smithsonian protocol, most of the animals will be de-accessioned through formal processes to new homes. Some will be moved to Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facilities, and some may be moved to another location in the Zoo. Those with short life spans will likely live out their lives in the Invertebrate Exhibit.”

  • mtpgal

    First they came for the bat house and I said nothing . . .

    • Anonymous


      The writing was on the wall once the giant octopus died.

      • Just as an FYI the lifespan of the giant pacific octopus is only a few years.

  • anon

    But where will they put the congressional democrats now?

  • Los

    Too bad none had the backbone to defend their exhibit

  • That’s sad. I think it’s unfortunate that the access to this exhibit is basically in the back of a building where there is not a lot of traffic so I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of people didn’t even know that it existed.

    • Anonymous

      True. Also people tend to be drawn to the big fuzzy things, and miss how really cool and interesting (and important!) the inverts are.

  • Angry Parakeet

    Maybe it had something to do with the octopus attacking the caregiver when the caregiver removed its enrichment item (toy).
    Sorry to see this exhibit go. It was my favorite and I attended its opening party as a volunteer to explain the new resident species. Slogan: “An animal need not possess a backbone to be interesting”

  • Anonymous

    This was one of my favorite places in the zoo – quiet, air conditioned, more opportunities for hands-on activities than most of the rest of the zoo and really, really cool animals.

    • monkeydaddy

      Exactly. Also, the pollinarium.

  • yigalelohev

    Very disappointing. This is my favorite exhibit at the zoo.

  • AA

    BOOOO!! This was one of the best exhibits for those of us with toddlers. It was a cool, non-crowded experience with such wonderfully colorful animals for the kids to see up close. This, complied with the death of Sophie, the sea lion, has me wondering when we’ll make it to the zoo next. Sophie!!!! I’m still crushed about her death.

  • Anonymous

    And our zoo continues its slide towards utter lameness. I guess if they can’t find a corporate sponsor for it, it gets the hatchet.
    I wish they’d closed the great ape house, instead. Those animals have to be lots more expensive to maintain, and they shouldn’t be in captivity anyway. What does a jellyfish care if it’s in a tank?

    • I agree, disagree with your comment. I’m sure those apes where born in captivity, if they are released in the jungle they’ll die in a week. But I get your point.

      • Anonymous

        I wasn’t suggesting that these individual apes be released into the wild. These ones would probably have to go to a sanctuary. Rather that we should move away from keeping highly intelligent primates on display like, well, like animals in a zoo. It wasn’t THAT long ago that the Bronx Zoo had a Pygmy man on display in the monkey house.

  • chippy

    was just here on yesterday. asked the zookeeper if they were going to get a new giant octupus..they said the zoo probably wouldn’t. should have known then

  • Ben

    “In other news, the zoo announced its ONE-TIME SEAFOOD BROIL! Scheduled to take place Monday, June 23rd.”

  • Oh man! This was my favorite exhibit. It was an awesome combo of all the cool thing. I was definitely in need of a little extra love. There were a lot of exhibits out of commission. Maybe they could move some of the cool bugs to the amazon.


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