Pandemic pushes National Zoo to sever partnership

An “adopt a panda” birthday party benefiting Pandas International and the Friends of the National Zoo. FONZ recently ended a 63-year-long partnership with the National Zoo. Credit: woodleywonderworks

The National Zoo is ending its 63-year-long partnership with the nonprofit Friends of the National Zoo as a result of budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus outbreak. Friends of the National Zoo was launched in 1958, and since then had helped fund conservation actions such as field studies of elephants (Elephas maximus maximus) in Sri Lanka, the release of golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia) in Brazil, raised money for giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), and more. Overall throughout the years, FONZ provided millions of dollars to the zoo to support conservation research, education and outreach programs. While FONZ was successful with fundraising efforts, the zoo was responsible for paying FONZ for its programs — sometimes the zoo was paying their partner more money than they were making. As revenues declined at the zoo and they couldn’t afford the partnership any longer, and the zoo plans to take on many of these fundraising efforts on its own. “At the end of the day, the decision was made, mutually,” Steve Monfort, the zoo’s director told the Washington Post. “We value what they did, and we’ve really respected their passion for our mission . . . These are great people. This is something that is heartbreaking for us.”

Read more in the Washington Post.