Monday, April 21, 2008

Elephant in the room

Something about yesterday's Commercial Appeal article kept nagging at me, and I finally figured it out.

Brady said the goal is to provide a natural exhibit for the entire collection, but that takes money and time.

"I'd put them all in a new exhibit today if we had the money to build them," Brady said. "In the meantime we add enhancements to stimulate them and keep them happy and healthy."

That's a laudable statement, isn't it?

But it doesn't quite mesh with the reality of spending nearly $16 million* on the Teton Clearcut. Why? Because that new exhibit will not enhance the quality of life for any of the animals who currently live at the Memphis Zoo.

As we learned when the $16 million CHINA exhibit opened in April of 2003, and when the $23 million Northwest Passage opened in March of 2006, a brand new exhibit at the Memphis Zoo means that we get brand new animals.

The Teton Clearcut is no exception.

Here's the Memphis Zoo's official list of animals that will be on display after the ugly Teton Clearcut finally completes its painful metamorphosis into the somewhat less ugly Teton Trek: grizzly bears, elk, grey wolves, arctic waterfowl, sandhill cranes, and trumpeter swans.

What this boils down to is that the Memphis Zoo's two trumpeter swans will have a new pond to swim in. They seem okay with their current quarters, but who knows, maybe they're suffering.

Still, does this justify $16 million that could be spent on new exhibits to create space for other animals who are many times larger and smarter than swans?

You do the math on that one.

*The CA reported that Teton Trek will cost $13.5 million. I'm going with the Memphis Zoo's official Teton Trek FAQ which says "nearly $16 million."