Category Archives: Zoos

County Urged to Allow Private Operation of Niabi Zoo

Source: Jim Mertens, WQAD, October 7, 2015

Biddle is confirming what the Commission has already heard: the long-term health of Niabi Zoo would be better served if a private operator took over the day to day activities. In other words, get the County Board out of the Zoo business. … Biddle recommends a new public-private partnership takes control of the day to day care of the animals, the fundraising for the zoo, and all the basic operations.   The County Forest Preserve would continue owning the property and everything in it. He says Niabi needs to grow its fundraising base and donors want to have a direct connection with those who it.  It’s transparency that may not be possible with the current operations at the Zoo.

Zoo Services Privatization Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Source: Lisa Kaiser, Express Milwaukee, April 29, 2015

Perhaps realizing that it was doomed before the full Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, the proposed contract to privatize the Milwaukee County Zoo’s food, catering and concessions services was sent back to committee for further revisions. A major sticking point for supervisors had been granting exclusive catering rights at the zoo to the Denver-based Service Systems Associates (SSA) as part of the proposed 10-year contract. Local caterers would be considered for just 10 zoo events annually. As a result of their concerns, the Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee voted 5-3 on April 16 to not recommend the contract….

Milwaukee County Zoo’s concessions may be privatized
Source: Georgia Pabst, Journal Sentinel, September 7, 2014

The Milwaukee County Zoo will consider privatizing its $5 million-a-year food service, catering and retail operations in the 2015 budget. The zoo issued a request for proposals in July and received six plans by the August deadline, said Charles Wikenhauser, the zoo director. A contract would be for five years. The six proposals were evaluated by a team of five — four zoo staff members and Rick Biddle, of Schultz & Williams, a Philadelphia consulting firm, Wikenhauser said.

Exclusive: Milwaukee County Zoo Food, Catering and Retail Concessions May Be Privatized / No public warning on fast-tracked bid requests
Source: Lisa Kaiser, Express, August 20, 2014

With no public discussion, the Milwaukee County Zoo offered a request for proposals (RFP) to operate and manage its lucrative food service, catering and retail operations from interested private vendors. … The RFPs were sent out on July 18, on-site visits were scheduled for July 30 and 31, and bids were due last Friday, Aug. 15. The five-year contract would begin Jan. 1, 2015, if the county decides to move forward with privatizing these operations, which generated $5.8 million in revenue in 2013. But you’d have to be an insider to know about this fast-tracked privatization plan. The matter never came before the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, nor was it included in last year’s budget….But the RFP is mentioned in the zoo’s 2015 budget request, drafted this summer, saying that the department is “in the process of evaluating whether a concessionaire for catering, novelty sales and concessions is more financially beneficial than running the operations in house.”… The Abele-backed Act 14, which stripped the board of much of its oversight of contracts, only allows the board to review contracts worth more than $300,000 once Abele decides to award a contract to a vendor. This RFP would seem to be worth far more than that, so it would appear that supervisors could review the final contract, if one is awarded….Little is said about the affected workers in the RFP, but it appears that they will become the employees of the operator, not the county. … McCamish called the zoo’s attitude toward its employees in the RFP “an afterthought.”…

Why the federal government still sometimes doesn’t obey its own minimum wage laws

Source: Lydia DePillis, Washington Post, Wonkblog, April 10, 2015

….Contractors on federal land are supposed to make a bit more than that — but over the years, the laws that require it have been sparsely enforced and widely violated. And loopholes make sure fewer workers are covered in the first place. Take Glover. Groundskeepers are covered by the Service Contract Act, which dictates that they be paid a “prevailing wage” set by the Department of Labor. In D.C., the wage for groundskeepers is $13.07 — which would make a big difference to Glover, who lives on a cot in his sister’s basement in Maryland because he can’t afford his own place. … The Smithsonian Institution, which runs the zoo, says that Service Contract Act doesn’t cover him. Spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson says the Friends of the National Zoo, a member-supported nonprofit that employs all the maintenance and concessions workers, isn’t primarily concerned with providing services covered by the Act, so the law shouldn’t apply to the whole contract….. In its complaint, Good Jobs Nation says in total the violations have deprived 65 workers of $1,578,700 in wages at three workplaces over the two years the statute covers. Their findings illustrate the difficulty the federal government has had in enforcing its own laws since they were passed decades ago….

GLAZA takes charge of Los Angeles Zoo’s outside marketing efforts

Source: Rick Orlov, San Jose Mercury News, May 6, 2013

The long-sought effort to increase the role of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association at the Los Angeles Zoo took a step forward on Monday with a new memorandum of understanding that will have the private volunteer organization take over all outside marketing. With the promise of a $2 million a year contribution, GLAZA will take on all promotion of the zoo without using any money from the city general fund and also reduce a prospective ticket price increase form $2 to $1, beginning on July 1…. Turning over a portion of the zoo operation to GLAZA has been pushed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as a way to reduce the overall city budget on services he considered outside the core function of the city. GLAZA officials said the plan – far short of the original proposal from more than two years ago to take over the entire operation – will help boost the zoo….

Founder: Worker killed by lion was female intern

Source: Gosia Wozniacka and Tracie Cone, Associated Press, March 6, 2013

A female intern-volunteer was killed Wednesday by a lion at a private wild animal park in Central California, and authorities were trying to determine what might have caused the fatal attack. Cat Haven founder and executive director Dale Anderson was crying as he read a one-sentence statement about the fatal mauling at the exotic animal zoo he has operated since 1993….

…The male African lion, a 4-year-old male named Cous Cous, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was a cub, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates the animal park. Since the 100-acre facility just west of Kings Canyon National Park opened two decades ago, it has housed numerous big cats, including tigers, leopards and other exotic species. It is permitted to house exotic animals by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and is regulated as a zoo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture….

Aquarium allegedly bought illegal sharks

Source: UPI, February 27, 2013

Two officials with a non-profit aquarium in Idaho have been charged with illegally buying eagle rays and lemon sharks in the Florida Keys…Ammon Covino, 39, and Christopher Conk, 40, the president and secretary of Idaho Aquarium, were indicted in November by a federal grand jury, reported….The two men allegedly offered to pay fish collectors $1,250 for eagle rays and $650 for lemon sharks to be captured in the Keys and shipped to Idaho. One collector allegedly sent four eagle rays to the aquarium in Boise last year….The aquarium, housed in a converted warehouse in Boise, is organized as a non-profit educational center….

LA Zoo Privatization Plan Defeated!

Source: AFSCME Council 36, December 2012

In a major victory for City of LA employees and residents, City CAO Miguel Santana on December 18 announced that a proposal some city officials have long supported to privatize the Los Angeles Zoo is now officially scrapped. The end of the privatization effort means that the public will be able to continue to enjoy access to the zoo at relatively affordable prices (other Southland cities that have privatized their zoos, such as San Diego, charge higher admission prices) and the positions of about 200 zoo employees – from vets to clerical staff to maintenance workers – are now secure. Many of those employees are members of Council 36, and represented by Locals, 3090, 741, and 2006. …

L.A. Zoo privatization negotiations fall apart
Source: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2012

Plan to Privatize L.A. Zoo Stopped
By Howard Fine, Los Angeles Business Journal, September 27, 2012

L.A. Council moves ahead with zoo privatization plan
Source: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2011

The Los Angeles City Council has moved forward on a plan to possibly turn over management of the Los Angeles Zoo to a private company or nonprofit. In a 9-2 vote Friday, the council passed a measure that calls for the city to begin soliciting proposals from prospective operators. City officials will start reviewing responses this fall. If a contract is approved, the new operator could be in place by next summer. …

L.A. considers putting zoo operations in private hands
Source: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2011

…… The city opened the zoo and botanical gardens in 1966, but officials are now considering a proposal to turn over management to a private operator. That means the gardeners, plumbers and other city employees who help run the zoo could be transferred to other departments and replaced with private workers.

Privately Operated Zoos Now Considered the Standard

Source: Harris Kenny, Reason Foundation, May 29, 2012

North Carolina lawmakers are weighing a bill (House Bill 958) that would implement a public-private partnership (PPP) for operations of the state-owned North Carolina Zoo. The proposed management structure would reflect what’s already in place for a vast majority of zoos across the United States, three-quarters of which are privately operated according to some estimates. Meanwhile, similar agreements are being explored in cities like Los Angeles, California and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

N.C. Zoo Says Privatization Could Free It From Fiscal Captivity

Source: Dan Way, Lincoln Tribune, October 24, 2011

A partial privatization plan being explored by the North Carolina Zoo could increase donations, enhance attractions, and speed up needed repairs, its operators say…. The state would retain ownership of the zoo, but the more than 250 employees now on the payroll of the state Department of the Environment and Natural Resources would work for the private operator, the North Carolina Zoological Society. The nonprofit society already operates, sells memberships, and does some fundraising for the zoo.

State considers privatization of aquariums

Source: Shannan Bowen,, September 18, 2011

While a state report is underway on how government-owned attractions should operate, the nonprofit N.C. Aquarium Society is preparing plans to privatize the state’s three aquariums and related facilities.

The shift to private ownership is likely to be addressed or even recommended in a report by the state’s Program Evaluation Division, which is reviewing operations of all state-owned attractions, including historic sites, state parks, aquariums and the N.C. Zoo. But the report won’t be public until March, and there’s little information about how privatizing the aquariums would impact state plans to build two fishing piers in addition to Jennette’s Pier, a $25 million project that opened in May with more than $10 million in support from the state….

…According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, 54 percent of facilities, aquariums and zoos combined, are nonprofit institutions, whereas 35 percent are public….

…The society’s financial and organizational models, so far, assume the state would maintain ownership of the aquarium properties but lease them to the society. Conoley said the society would request that the state contribute some funding, perhaps up to 35 percent of the aquariums’ total budget. “It would save the state several million dollars a year to do this,” he said. But, at least over time, admission fees could increase to cover some costs, Conoley added. Privatization also could mean less state appropriated money for aquarium pier projects….