Keep the National Zoo's Invertebrate House Open!
  • Petitioned National Zoological Park

This petition was delivered to:

National Zoological Park
Zoo Director Dennis Kelly
Dr. David Skorton
Friends of the National Zoo
Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
Secretary Wayne Clough

Keep the National Zoo's Invertebrate House Open!

    1. Petition by

      Terri Jacobsen

      Bethesda, MD

The Smithsonian Institution—the world's largest museum and research complex—includes the National Zoological Park, 19 museums and galleries, and nine research facilities around the world.  This Petition arises from a recent announcement made by the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park.

On Monday, June 15, 2014, the National Zoo issued this press release, announcing the public had exactly six days to visit the Invertebrate House before it would close permanently:


“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.”


Public reaction has not been favorable.  One article reporting on the closing stated this:

"Having the nation’s zoo suddenly and with little public warning close a long-standing exhibit is unprecedented. Public comments on the Museum’s Facebook page are overwhelmingly shocked and negative, including some from volunteers that work at the Zoo."


http://www.wired.com/2014/06/national-zoo-suddenly-closes-invertebrate-exhibit/?mbid=social_twitter

Wired's Gwen Pearson spoke with Zoo Director Dennis Kelly, who said the Zoo plans to open a "Hall of Biodiversity" in 20 years (!) in which invertebrates may or may not be exhibited live.  Meanwhile, no plans have even been made for the empty space occupied by the Invertebrate House, and Pearson reports "the building space the Invertebrate exhibit occupied will remain empty for the foreseeable future; the only plans are to clean the facility up."


The Zoo recently completed a $52 million renovation of the Elephant House, and another $53 million project to house pandas. These investments promote two species, albeit highly visible and popular ones, while invertebrates make up 97% of all described species on earth, according to Pearson's article.  

Over two million people visit the National Zoo each year.  Long-time visitors have fond and educational memories of their visits to the Invertebrate House, which exhibits cuttlefish, octopi, blue crabs, anemones, orb-weaving spiders, honeybees, leaf-cutter ants, and butterflies, among many other species.  

The closure of the Invertebrate House leaves the National Zoo with no invertebrate exhibit.  Yet, as numerous as they are on the planet, invertebrates remain so unstudied that major new discoveries are still being made in publicly-funded museum research programs.  The very day the Smithsonian closure was announced, the American Natural History Museum in New York announced it had identified a new order of invertebrates in the phylum Cnidaria, which includes jellyfish, anemones, corals and their relatives.  This new find, based on DNA analysis of invertebrate specimens collected near deep-ocean methane vents, is "equivalent to finding the first member of a group like primates or rodents,” said Estefanía Rodríguez, an assistant curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology and the lead author of a new publication reporting the find. http://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/research-posts/sea-anemone-tree-of-life-reveals-giant-species-as-impostor?utm_source=email&utm_medium=enotes&utm_campaign=newsletter-june&utm_term=20140617-tue

Keeping the Invertebrate House open furthers the mission of the National Zoo to “provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats.” http://nationalzoo.si.edu/AboutUs/Mission/NZP_Our_Plan_to_Save_Species.pdf.  Watching octopi and cuttlefish explore their tanks is, to many visitors, equally as engaging as viewing elephants and pandas.  Creating and sharing knowledge about invertebrates, the most numerous species of animals on Earth occupying habitats that encompass virtually our entire planet, is squarely within the National Zoo’s mission.  The Invertebrate House can be improved, maintained and kept open at a fraction of the cost of the $100 million spent recently by the Smithsonian to exhibit elephants and pandas.

For these reasons, WE THE PEOPLE who are among the two million annual visitors to the National Zoo, have started and hereby support this petition to Keep the National Zoo's  Invertebrate House Open!

To:
National Zoological Park
Zoo Director Dennis Kelly
Dr. David Skorton
Friends of the National Zoo
Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Institution
Secretary Wayne Clough, Smithsonian Institution
Keep the National Zoo's Invertebrate House Open!

Sincerely,
[Your name]

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Smithsonian Response; Zoogoer Survey is Chance to Speak Out

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      As I said in an earlier update, I closed this petition to new signatures as the public passion (and the news cycle) accompanying the ill-advised closure of the Zoo's Invertebrate House began to ebb. Many people, however, continue to resent the improvident closure of this popular exhibit. Many zoogoers still feel the sting of the Zoo's heavy-handed and surprising, if not astonishing, disregard for the public will. Others commented on their intent to protest the closure by not renewing their FONZ membership. For these reasons, I am issuing this update on two issues.

      First, in its written response to the petition (which I will try to paste on the Zoo's Facebook page today), the Smithsonian wants you, the public, to know you "can't always get what you want." Invertebrates remain part of our National Zoo, the response says, the Zoo just needs 20 years to open their new Biodiviersity exhibit, which may or may not have live invertebrates and indeed, may or may not open at all. Your tax $$$ at work.

      Second, for those who still feel the urge to protest, you have a chance to speak out in a new survey posted by Smithsonian's Zoogoer magazine. Most questions relate to preferred content, but 2Qs make this survey worthwhile even if you leave all other responses blank. Q39 asks if you will renew your FONZ membership. For those who want to cancel with a "bang," here's your chance. Q45 asks for other comments about the Zoo. A simple statement from 4,000+ citizens opposing the Invert House closure and the Zoo's disregard for public opinion could raise a few eyebrows. And no worries, you don't need to be a FONZ member or subscriber to participate in the survey. Here's the link:

      http://fonz.org/2014survey

      or try this one:
      https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=h0IlTM%2fsaW%2fC6OpRJH9bxA%3d%3d

      Thanks again for signing and for caring about the Invertebrate Exhibit!

    2. This Petition has now closed

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Thanks to all 4,034 supporters!

    3. 4000+ Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      That's equal to 10% of the 40,000 FONZ members, so where do you suppose FONZ stands on all of this? Why haven't the 40,000 FONZ members signed or otherwise come forward to oppose the closure of the Invert House? Any signatories here who are members of FONZ and will remain members after this? What was FONZ's response when you challenged their public silence on this issue?

      And while we debate on Twitter whether Smithsonian is "stupid" or not, let's not be bound by Henry Miller's terminology here. Smithsonian's failure to engage 4,000 citizens who oppose closure of the Invert House is what, ignorant? counterproductive? out of touch? deliberately indifferent? No, it's really just colossally stupid, Miller was right. Why engage citizens in determining what furthers the mission of a taxpayer-funded institution with a missions to educate citizens?

    4. Reached 4,000 signatures
    5. Nearly 4000 Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Thanks to all who continue to RT and spread the message about the ill-advised, short-sighted closing of the Zoo's popular Invertebrate House.

      From the Zoo's first press release on Monday, June 16, 2014, giving citizens 5 days to see the Invertebrate house one last time before its permanent closure on June 22, 2014, neither the Zoo nor the Smithsonian has even once considered the opinions of the #wethepeople who use the Zoo. Media staff and two addl press releases from the Zoo are all we have from these once-respected taxpayer-funded institutions. How shameful that behavior has been.

      As the author Henry Miller once said, "One can fight evil but against stupidity one is helpless." And so it goes with a Zoo CEO who knows more about cherry Coke than he does about animals and people's tenuous relationship with the natural world. Stupid is as stupid does, and the Smithsonian will have to live with the poor choices of its corporate CEOs.

      This petition will close at noon on Friday, June 27, 2014. We achieved our goal of carrying the fight against stupidity as far as necessary to show the closure of the Invert House was just that. . . a stupid decision by a stupid CEO and a stupid institution. Thanks to everyone who signed and to Curator Alan Peters, best wishes for the invertebrates that once brought natural history to the people, and RIP Invert House.

    6. Attn: Twitter Users

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      For those of you on Twitter, you can see and forward some of my posts at @nowhitechalk. Not all posts there will interest you as an advocate of the Zoo's Invert House, as I am also an avid fan of the Miami Heat (don't hold that against me! #LETSGOHEAT), so you may not want to follow me, only search the hashtag #spineless to get straight to those posts of interest. I will continue to post tweets about the invert house, and I hope you will too! All of these tweets will reach a much wider audience if everyone in this group -- avid fans of invertebrates, natural history and the educational mission of the National Zoo -- looks for those #spineless tweets and RTs them.

      For those of you not on Twitter, check it out sometime! I reached an estimated 95% of those who signed this petition via Twitter, which is a powerful social networking tool that may help you reach your audience when you come across an issue that stirs your passions. Twitter is also an effective way to access news and information quickly and with little or no effort, other than identifying the issues and people to follow.

    7. Nearly 3900 Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      As the rate of new signatures on this petition begins to slow, we must all never forget the Invert House. One particularly astute signatory directed me to a blog post you may want to take time to read. There, Jennifer Frazer argues why kids need "critter-on-critter time not just with vertebrates" to keep them (and all citizens) educated about the natural world. http://bit.ly/1jhmCDH Surely we can all agree the Zoo's Invert House furthered that cause for two million children and citizens every year. Please help spread that message even after this petition closes.

      Natural History is Dying, and We Are All the Losers | The Artful Amoeba, Scientific American Blog Network

      The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. A few weeks ago, I came across a new paper in BioScience called "Natural History's Place in Science and Society" that contained the following graph.

    8. 3800 Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Please keep this issue alive on social media and do your best to contact the decisionmakers identified in earlier news updates on this webpage. We can still make a difference by asking the groups responsible for oversight of the National Zoo to get involved. Even as the Zoo distracts the citizens from the Invertebrate House with the new elephants, the petition does not have to lose steam! Thanks for helping!

    9. 3700+ Signatures

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Please visit the petition webpage and see the news updates for contact information for various decisionmakers and oversight groups related to the National Zoo and its ill-advised decision to close the Invertebrate House on short notice. We need individuals to contact these people and groups and raise awareness about the petition and the negative press the closure has received.

      Here is another contact: James Dinegar is Chair of the Advisory Board for the National Zoo. His executive secretary handles his emails, and her email is: helenwalker@bot.org. Dinegar is with the Greater Washington Board of Trade. You can email Dinegar and ask the Advisory Board to revisit and reconsider the closure as short-sighted and ill-advised. Thanks for helping!

    10. 3600+ Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      We will keep this petition open through the end of this week to gather as much support as possible. We cannot affect the decisionmakers, however, unless individual supporters call, email or otherwise contact the Smithsonian Board, the National Zoo, and Congressional oversight committee. Contact information can be found in earlier updates on the petition webpage. You can also post comments on the National Zoo's Facebook page.

      Today, I contacted James Dinegar, Chair of the Advisory Board for the National Zoo, and asked the Board to revisit Director Kelly's decision. I will update supporters if I have any response.

      Thanks again for your support! Please email me directly with any suggestions for taking this petition forward: terri.jacobsen@verizon.net.

    11. 3500+ Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Thank you for continuing to support this petition. We will not stop here! Please continue to spread the word!

    12. 3400+ Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Please continue to spread the petition by social media, by email, and by word of mouth, and please contact the decisionmakers at the contact numbers given in earlier news alerts and on the petition webpage. The Zoo's Facebook page is another place to post comments. We will keep this petition going as long as the interest remains and until the decisionmakers respond!

      Today, the Smithsonian Board of Regents meets at the Smithsonian Castle, and at the media session from 4-5pm EDT, we hope the media will question Secretary Wayne Clough and Board Member John McClaren about the petition. If that happens, we will spread news of the Smithsonian's response.

      Thanks for helping!

    13. 3300+ Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Please continue your efforts to spread the word about this petition. We have no response from the Smithsonian, and it would be nice to know the oversight decisionmakers have looked at this issue carefully.

      This looks to be a real turning point in the management of the Zoo, and if the citizenry isn't diligent, we will have a theme park, complete with carousel, instead of a Zoo designed for science and education. We have a former CEO of Coca-Cola at the helm in Director Kelly, and we need to be sure he doesn't divest invertebrates from the Zoo as if he were eliminating Cherry Coke or some other product to make his company more profitable! Thus is a public educational institution and "we the educated citizens" need to be able to say how our children and visitors are best educated about invertebrates, about wildlife and about science.

      Please consider contacting the decisionmakers TODAY as the Smithsonian Board of Regents meets in Washington!

    14. Nearly 20 New Comments in Past Hour!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Citizens continue to post their personal comments on the petition web page objecting to the Zoo's closure of the Invertebrate House! This campaign is not over! Please continue to network with friends, family and supporters and consider contacting various decisionmakers (see contact info in earlier emails) who can bring this challenge directly to those who oversee and fund the National Zoo in the name of the public trust.

      Remember, the Smithsonian Board of Regents is holding one of its 4 annual meetings TODAY on the second floor of the Smithsonian Castle. The Board has a copy of our petition, delivered by hand on Saturday. A media session follows, and we hope to have the media raise questions about the Zoo's closure decision. Please reach out to your media contacts to ensure these questions are asked today!

      Thanks for helping keep this citizen campaign alive!

    15. Contact the National Zoo

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      You can contact the National Zoo in support of the petition. The only contact number we have for the Director's Office is the Information Desk in the Visitor Center, located on the first floor of the building housing the Director's Office (just above). If you call this number and ask to speak to someone in the Director's office, you may be transferred there, where you can offer your support of the petition. Here is that phone number:

      202.633.4888

    16. Post on Facebook Smithsonian National Zoo

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      You can post your comments on the Facebook page for the Smithsonian National Zoo in response to Zoo Director Dennis Kelly's recent "Thank you" to all citizens for visiting the Invertebrate House. This posting continues Director Kelly's campaign to disenfranchise citizens from the Zoo's closure decision. Many citizens have already posted their comments opposed to the closure. I have posted several references to media print stories critical of the Zoo's decision.

    17. Contact Representative Tom Cole

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Representative Tom Cole is a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents and sits on the Committee for Facilities, Strategic Planning and Programming. His contact info in DC is:

      2458 Rayburn HOB
      Washington, DC 20515
      Phone: (202) 225-6165
      Fax: (202) 225-3512

    18. Contact Senator Patrick Leahy

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Senator Leahy sits on the Smithsonian's Board of Regents and is the ranking member for Smithsonian Facilities, Governance and Nominating. His office in DC can be reached here:

      437 Russell Senate Bldg
      United States Senate
      Washington, DC 20510
      (202) 224-4242

    19. Contact Smithsonian Board of Regents

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      The Smithsonian Board of Regents has oversight over all Smithsonian activities and decisions and safeguards the public trust. Call the Board and tell them you signed the petition that is now in the Board's hands. Voice your opinion about the Zoo's decision to close the Invertebrate House on short notice and against the public will.

      The Board meets TODAY with the Secretary of the Smithsonian. Here is one contact at the Board:

      Porter N. Wilkinson
      Chief of Staff to the Regents
      (202) 633-8899
      wilkinsonp@si.edu

    20. 3200 Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Social networking continues to find people who have not yet had a chance to see or sign this petition. Had the Zoo given us more time to offer feedback on this closure decision, we would have reached many more citizens and gathered many more comments before the official closure. Even with the Invertebrate House closed, we will continue to challenge this decision and the way the closure was handled.

      The Smithsonian Board of Regents meets this afternoon on other business, after which there is a media session where DC media will question Secretary Wayne Clough about the Zoo's decision. Call the Smithsonian offices and offer your opinion! Citizens can tell the Secretary this betrays the public trust!

      Citizens can also call the Congressional representatives that oversee the Smithsonian's budget. You can find these names on the Smithsonian website. Next news update will have this info. Thanks for your help!

    21. 3000+ Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Another milestone! We will keep this petition going, this is important to so many people, please do not let this lose steam! Thanks for all your help!

    22. Reached 3,000 signatures
    23. 2800+ Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      Thanks to everyone for keeping the petition alive by sending the link along to your contacts and social networks. We intend to continue to invite signatures as long as possible, and as long as there are citizens out there who care about this issue. We have collected signatures at a rate of just under 1000/day, and it is clear we could have had many times the 2800+ number if Director Kelly had given more notice of the closure.

      There has been news coverage of the closure and the petition, stories have aired today on radio and television and should appear in print tomorrow in the Washington Post. I also expect reporters to question Secretary Clough and the Board of Regents when they have a media session following their meeting on other business Monday afternoon. I will keep everyone informed.

    24. Petition delivered to Zoo Director Kelly's Office Today

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      I carried the 250+ page printout of the petition, signatures and comments to the Zoo Director's office and left it with his Secretary. This is corporate America, folks, can't expect the decisionmaker to show up on the last day of the people's favorite exhibit at the Zoo. Nope, let's send those media hounds instead, it's just crowd control anyway.

      This petition will not die with the closing of this exhibit today. I am delivering a copy to the Smithsonian today or Monday, when the Board of Regents meets at the Castle. Please keep spreading the word about this closure, we need to continue the signature campaign! Let's keep this issue alive as long as we can, until we get a proper response from the Smithsonian. We cannot permit our public institutions to treat the people they serve with this kind of disdain and disrespect. It's not right. As Pat Riley said at the year-end press conference for the Miami Heat after an unsuccessful Finals appearance, "I Am Pissed!" Spread the word!

    25. 2600+ Signatures!

      Terri Jacobsen
      Petition Organizer

      At the Zoo's Invertebrate House today, lines were long and the exhibit itself was appropriately dim and disheveled as if this closure was long coming. Of course the Zoo created this backdrop for the exhibit's final 6 days, so no surprise there.

      The Zoo's Communications people were out in force, aggressively trying to control the message. Directing media, interrupting and talking over citizens, empathizing (as if that mattered) with upset zoogoers, you name it, these media bulldogs were tag-teaming this event with all they had. I, for one, would have none of it.

      Hats off to the curator of this exhibit, who put 27 years into this gem and who was on hand with his family. Alan may have been the only Zoo employee present with authentic sadness and respect for the visitors.

      Stay tuned to WTOP 103.5FM and CBS 99.1FM, which should air this story this evening beginning at 3 or 4pm and running til midnight. TVstations present, but I preferred to spend my time in the exhibit.

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Andrea Burton NEWPORT, OR
      • 4 months ago

      I am working on my masters in Marine Biology, and would have never gotten to this point without the experiences I had looking at the coral reef tanks in the National Zoos, Invertebrate House. The importance and beauty of invertebrates needs to be recognized. Many of these invertebrates are endangered too, and are facing extinction due to climate change and acidification of our oceans. Having a $52 million Elephant House is not going to encourage people to save out earth and oceans.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • lynne iadarola CHEVY CHASE, MD
      • 4 months ago

      This exhibit is so very important! Of all the things we must learn about - invertebrates outnumber all of us - they affect our world dramatically. This is the best exhibit in the whole zoo - up close, personal, engaging, mesmerizingly beautiful. More elephants, fine - but we must focus on the completeness of our biosphere. ABSOLUTELY, KEEP THE INVERTEBRATE EXHIBIT!!!! The cost is not the problem - it appears to be the prejudice, or politics of the zoo administration. PLEASE DON'T TAKE AWAY THE SINGLE CHANCE TO APPRECIATE THIS PHYLUM!!!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Christine Holt ELLICOTT CITY, MD
      • 4 months ago

      As a FONZ member, I am a friend to all the creatures, not just the fuzzy ones,

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • cristian soazo SANTIAGO, CHILE
      • 4 months ago

      espero ir algún día y encontrarlo abierto, en vez que me digan que alguna vez existió.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Shana Beirne PENANG, MALAYSIA
      • 4 months ago

      Really? Why would it close? And for 20 years?

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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