Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
The Woodland Park Zoo's Night Exhibit will close March 1, but some animals, such as this Rodrigues fruit, will remain at the zoo.

Sun setting on zoo's Night Exhibit March 1

In the face of a large public outcry – a Facebook group called "Save the Woodland Park Nocturnal House boasts 24,595 members – the Woodland Park Zoo will be shutting down the Night Exhibit, formerly known as the Nocturnal House, March 1.

Despite 2009 cost-saving measures, such as a hiring freeze and elimination of programs, the Woodland Park Zoo needed to reduce it annual expenses by $800,000 to $1 million, according to a zoo press release.

"Like everyone else in the region and the nation, the zoo also has been hit by the economy," zoo President and CEO Deborah Jensen said in the press release. "We, too, need to trim expenses to allow us to operate sustainably over the long term."

According to the press release, zoo staff looked at staffing needs, energy use, conservation impact and other factors when deciding which exhibit to cut and the Night Exhibit was the clear choice.

The Nigh Exhibit, which opened in 1975, is expensive with high operating costs and high energy use, Jensen said. Closing it will save about $300,000 annually.

"While times are tough, we need to not lose the things that make the zoo so great," creator Scott Gifford says on the "Save the Woodland Park Nocturnal House" Facebook page. "For many, this is their only chance to actually see the wonderful creatures that inhabit the nighttime world."

Some of the thoughts posted to the page include:

"A family favorite. Sometimes we go to the zoo just to see the bats."

"The Nocturnal House was always my favorite exhibit at the zoo as a child. I'd be saddened to see it go."

"This is my favorite part of the zoo. It has been since my second-grade field trip."

Jensen said visitors feel a strong connection to the zoo and each feels especially strongly toward their favorite exhibit or animal.

"We are touched by the outpouring of support the community has expressed on Facebook and through emails," she said in the zoo's press release. "But, we need to make sound, responsible decisions to help prevent a budget shortfall."

The zoo cannot accept donations to keep the Night Exhibit open because it would only be a short-term solution, she said.

Even with the closing of the Night Exhibit, the zoo is making sure visitors have a chance to see some of its 60 residents.

Two-toed sloths, Rodrigues fruit bats, tamanduas and springhaas will be moved to other areas of the zoo. A three-banded armadillo will be used as a presentation animal. And, three pygmy lorises will be kept, though not put on display in the immediate future.

These animals were selected to stay because they are not completely nocturnal and should be available for viewing in a few moths, according to the zoo's press release.

The remaining animals will be moved to other zoos.

Though the Woodland Park Zoo cannot accept donations to keep the Night Exhibit open, it will gladly accept donations to help house and care for the Night Exhibit animals that will stay at the zoo, according to the press release.

Donations to the Nocturnal Animal Fund can be made here.

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