Zoos Turn To Public/Private Partnerships To Overcome Budget Cuts, Boost Attendance

Stephen Gutowski
By Stephen Gutowski | March 19, 2013 | 6:09 PM EDT

Reason TV recently looked into solutions for fixing the major budget shortfalls of most American zoos. Given that city revenue has consistently fallen over the last six years many zoo budgets have been slashed and many zoos are struggling to stay open. That's why, as Reason reports, more and more cities have been turning to public/private partnerships to save their zoos.

The prime example that Reason specifically profiles is that of the Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma. In 2009, the Tulsa Zoo was teetering on the verge of losing its accreditation, facing declining attendance, and reeling from massive budget cuts. That's when the mayor decided to privatize the zoo's operation.

Since being privatized, the Tulsa Zoo has been able to increase its budget, improve its exhibits - and increase attendance by 14% in the last year. The zoo has essentially been saved. And, it isn't the only one.

According to Reason's Leonard Gilroy, "About 75% of the accredited urban zoos and aquariums in this country are run through public/private partnerships."

Since privatization of zoos has proven to be both effective and popular, perhaps, some of our major cities grappling with the problems at their government-run zoos would benefit from adopting the Tulsa model.

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