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Government shutdown: What about the zoo animals?

April 7, 2011 | 10:41 pm

Maripi with Pablo on back- picks name-219MM

Most people know that if the federal government shuts down, that means the Smithsonian's museums close too.  But the National Zoo -- which is part of the Smithsonian's collection -- in northwest Washington, D.C., is an unusual case. It would close to public visitors, but behind its gates and fences, nothing stops.

"Consider it business as usual inside the zoo," said zoo spokeswoman Karin Korpowski-Gallo. The 30% of zoo staff, including administrative, that does not take care of animals ("like me," Korpowski-Gallo said) would not come to work. But the keepers, curators, vets, nutritionists (a commissary of staffers prepare daily meals) who minister to the needs of 2,000 animals would remain at work.

Similarly, at the zoo's conservation facility in Front Royal, Va. -- which is rarely open to the public -- all hands-on animal care would continue. That means the two tiny clouded leopard cubs that were born last week and are considered genetically valuable will be oblivious to the government upheaval. They will continue to be hand-reared by the staff, get nightly feedings and be otherwise looked after round the clock.

Back in Washington, the zoo's giant anteater, Maripi, and her 4-month-old pup, Pablo, who have been attracting a lot of attention, will still be wandering their grassy exhibit. She'll be sniffing out the peanut butter that keepers hide for her to find (a zoo enrichment activity) while transporting her offspring everywhere on her back. "He slides off on occasion," said Korpowski-Gallo. "She bends around to get him back on."

If only members of Congress worked together that well. 

More animal pics after the jump.


Government: With a shutdown looming, the engines of blame warm up

-- Carla Hall

Pablo follows mom Maripi in yard_MM

National Zoo Clouded Leopard Cub 1

National Zoo Clouded Leopard Cub 2

Photos: Mehgan Murphy / National Zoo

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