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Globe Editorial

Franklin Park Zoo: Learning from zebras

(Zoo New England)
November 26, 2009

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Franklin Park Zoo shares a dilemma with its most famous animals of the moment, a zebra named Evita and the baby she delivered last week. Both mother and foal are Grevy’s zebras, native to the savannas of Kenya and Ethiopia, where their ranks have dwindled to fewer than 2,500.

Like the zebra species, Franklin Park Zoo is endangered, facing a budget crisis and having recently promised the state it will become more self-sufficient. Zoo New England, the nonprofit group that runs both Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo in Stoneham, is struggling to keep both state-subsidized zoos afloat..

One reason the Grevy’s zebra is almost extinct - in addition to hunting and habitat loss - is that it competes with livestock and humans for scarce resources like water and food in the African grasslands where it roams. So too does Franklin Park Zoo compete with its more lucrative sister zoo 13 miles north for philanthropic support and scarce state funding. With too few resources to go around, neither zoo can thrive, and indeed one may not survive.

Rather than subsidizing two zoos, one of which brings in more revenue, the state and Zoo New England should focus on bringing Franklin Park Zoo back from the brink of extinction. Greater attention and resources for the city zoo might even make it a place that our own species finds more inviting.

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