News & Politics

National Zoo to Close Invertebrate Exhibit for Good

What a spineless move.

Sorry, cuttlefish. Photograph courtesy National Zoo.

Invertebrate organisms represent an estimated 99 percent of all known living species, but after Saturday, they’ll be the centerpieces of 0 percent of exhibits at the National Zoo. The zoo says it is closing its long-running invertebrate exhibit permanently on Sunday in a move the Smithsonian says will save $1 million a year.

“This difficult decision is not a reflection of the importance of invertebrates or how we feel about them,” Dennis Kelly, the zoo’s director, says in a press release.

The decision to close the 27-year-old invertebrate display—which features spineless creatures such as cuttlefish, coral, anemones, Chesapeake blue crabs, spiny lobsters, giant clams, and butterflies—was made to spare the Smithsonian the estimated $5 million it would cost to upgrade the exhibit. (By contrast, the zoo spends $550,000 just on giant pandas, although pandas make for better merchandise than cuttlefish.)

The zoo says most of its resident invertebrates will either be moved to other exhibits or transferred to other zoos and aquariums, while a few specimens with short life spans will die off before the exhibit closes this weekend.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.