Due to the financial strain of the pandemic, Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) is dissolving its partnership with the National Zoo. FONZ has taken a hard financial hit in the past year, and the Zoo, located in Woodley Park, is facing an estimated $15 million budget shortfall.
Founded by a former National Zoo director in 1958, FONZ has been the main provider of events, camps, and classes at the Zoo. FONZ members get free parking passes and discounts on food and retail purchases there, and roughly 18,000 households have memberships.
The Smithsonian and the Zoo are expected to pick up some of the programming FONZ will no longer be organizing, but for now, day camps, teen volunteer opportunities, and many education programs are suspended. The Zoo is creating its own membership program, but FONZ Zoo memberships will remain valid until they expire. A special giant-panda cub viewing is apparently still on.
FONZ executive director Lynn Mento says that the non-profit will continue to exist in some capacity: “The FONZ team is…working on reimagining ourselves and thinking through what our organization could look like on a smaller scale, outside of the Zoo, that still allows us to fulfill our mission to save species and spark the next generation of conservationists.”