Thursday, August 16, 2007

Assiniboine Park Zoo

It is time for the Winnipeg Zoo to go.

The city of Winnipeg shouldn't be in the zoo business. It should either shut it down or the city should sell it but there is no way it should continue funding it. By some accounts, the city pumps in $2 million a year into the facility. Anyone who has visited the zoo or Assiniboine Park for that matter has probably noticed the decay.

The last polar bear Debbie is in a compound that will not see another bear set foot in it. The compound is now too small to allow the zoo to take possession of another bear according to new guidelines.

And so goes.

The zoo needs $125 million in improvements. This is according to the city and the Zoological Society. I have no idea where that money is supposed to come from. The city doesn't have it. In fact, the rest of Assiniboine Park is as needy as the zoo is for refurbishment.

There has been an attempt to turn over the whole park to a non-profit organization but there has been little explanation of how this would work. It may be an attempt to do something like what New York did with Central Park. In the case of New York, 85% of the budget for the park comes from non-profit organization. Similarly, the Central Park Zoo is run by a group separate from the city of New York.

I don't know that the zoo in Winnipeg can be run that way but the opportunity should be presented to non-profit and profit groups alike to take over the zoo and remove it from the city payroll. If there are no takers, the city has to honestly look at closing the zoo.

There is no doubt that there are amazing workers taking care of the animals at the zoo but the deterioration of the facility is a reflection of a lack of resources in city coffers. Some might say that zoos should be retired in principle. I won't go that far but I do think that they should not be run by city governments. Certainly, Winnipeg doesn't want to be the focus of public attention like another city zoo in Canada has been. The Calgary Zoo has had a number of deaths in its gorilla population.

The big complaint of many people who flee to rural areas outside of Winnipeg is that taxes are too high. The $2 million going to the zoo would be a good start on trimming the budget.

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