You Belong in [the North Carolina] Zoo

It appears that funds for the Zoo in Asheboro that were included in Gov. Easley's budget are not in the Senate version. The NC Zoo has a bad rap for some reason. It isn't the greatest in the world, but it's not too bad (though I wish they'd redo the fishtank-style Gorilla enclosure). I don't have much to add, besides the polar bear photo below the fold.



Actually considering what most zoos are like, I think it's pretty darn good. The polar bear exhibit is sad though. I don't think polar bears should be in zoos south of Canada, it's just not right. But in general it's larger that just about every other zoo in the country, meaning more space for the animals. I also agree with the gorilla comment. And I hate that stupid kids tease the chimpanzees.

I agree with Adam

The zoo has the structure and space to be a truly extraordinary asset in North Carolina, but they've cut corners here and there, which detracts from the overall positive impact. I'm guessing those corners are a function of funding, which brings up the self-fullfilling prophecy problem.

If the zoo were a truly first class operation it would be a gigantic travel and tourism draw. But it's just short of that, which only goes to show that you get what you pay for.

I am a zoo fanatic

I love zoos and have visited zoos and aquariums in many states and a few different countries. The North Carolina zoo is by far the best because it is a natural habitat zoo. This is far less cruel to the animals. We go several times each year. Go early so you can see the animals at their most active. (Most of them)

I'm proud of our zoo and hate to see it lose funding, but they have done a good job of developing a strong base of donors, so if it is necessary to lose some from the state I'm willing to bet fundraising can be picked up to fill in the gaps.

The entry fee is still relatively low, so that could maybe get bumped by $.50 or so to help a bit as well.

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I'm also a zoo fanatic. More accurately, I love field trips and learning vacations (museums of any stripe, large and small, zoos, aquariums), and Arica loves watching animals, so zoos and aquariums are the overlap. It's a sure thing that if we're visiting a town with a zoo, we're there.

You know, another zoo with a reputation for being worse than it is is the National Zoo in D.C. Maybe it was the weeks of people saying "you really want to go there?" that lowered my expectations, but several of the exhibits there were really good. It's definitely no Asheboro, though.

I used to be one too.

But then I went to Kenya and spent two weeks at a place called Samburru. It changed the way I look at animals forever. The NC Zoo is the closest there is to a natural habitat for some of its animals. I think they're on the right track, for sure.


PS If you like birds and want to see an amazing zoo, visit the Singapore Bird Park. It's a beautiful place.

I haven't been to Africa

The London Zoo was nothing to write home about...but The Oceanographic Museum in Monaco has an amazing aquarium. It also has a lovely rooftop bistro that serves beer and wine. (Actually, it wasn't that lovely, but the view was awesome since the museum is built on the edge of a cliff.)

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Zootopia V Reality

The Zoo, like Aquariums and the Museum of Natural Sciences are part of DENR. What's not to love? They are naturally likeable, understandable and all have parallel non-profit organizations for financial and political support in addition to appropriations from the General Fund. Because they have multiple sources of revenue and are so visible they can afford to position themselves for expansion and improvement.

Sedimentation and erosion control, soil conservation, stormwater management, air & water quality, waste management etc are not sexy, do not have parallel foundations for support and are legally prohibited from lobbying on their own behalf. DENR regulatory agencies always get the short end of the stick.

DENR budgets are tightly controlled. If legislators express a preference for increased support for the Zoo, Museum or Aquariums it is unlikely that the overall DENR budget will increase and cuts will have to be made elsewhere. It is a conundrum because DENR needs the visibility provided by its pretty children but must sustain them at the expense of the cinderella agencies doing the hard work of cleaning up the state's environment.


NC's zoo is certainly one of the best out there....very few in the US gives the animals so much room. Unfortunately that sometimes backfires because you have people who complain they can't see the animals, cuz they're sleeping way in the far back corner of its habitat area. (I've been many many times and I STILL have never actually seen the Red Wolves.)
If they can only do a tad better at designing those habitats in such a way that gives the animal a good large habitat, but still is viewable from multiple corners, that'd help with attendance I think...and thus make it the tourism draw that it can be.

My last visit, I have noticed they are trying a few new things to get more dough and more visitors. A new carousel. The 4d movie rides are now a permanent thing. Really nice stuff at some of the gift shops. More drink and snack stands (although I'd like to see the restaurants serve better food...I'd pay for it). And of course they're tearing out the old Elephant & Rhino exhibits to build a much bigger one to give them more space to move about and better viewing opportunities.

If you haven't gone in a while, now's the time to do it....the Australia exhibit has been only a temporary one and will close (I believe) this fall.

As for budget, if you've ever seen their job opening listings, you can see where they are hurting the most: staff. They can't afford to pay their zookeepers what they're really worth, so they have vacancies constantly! Granted, part of it could be they're in Asheboro and few potential applicants want to live there, (I've heard most of their higher paid staff commute from Greensboro or HighPoint), but they obviously could benefit from being able to pay their staff better wages.

Speaking from experience...

I've been on staff at the zoo for eight years. The problems there start at the top with a figurehead, US non-citizen director who is paid more than the governor of the state, who sits on the boards of numerous international organizations and is constantly away from the zoo.

The nc zoo is actually "run" by a heavy-handed republican who got her job when jim martin was governor. Her husband was legal counsel to martin and they made a position for her because they live in asheboro.

Before the current "director" was hired, the interim director at that time, a randolph county democrat, chose to eliminate her position to make more funds available to pay the incoming director.(at that time it was $150,000.00/yr. Who knows how high it is over thirteen years later.) She sued the state, claiming that the elimination of her position was politically motivated. She won, so now the top-heavy management is under her "rule". She forced out the facilities division manager, who was a former chair of the Randolph Democratic Party. She then assumed his duties, on top of her own, an ovious control-freak. When the red/blue corporate supporters list came out in 2004, she switched the zoo's uniform contract to Cintas, which is listed as a red supporter.

She hires people who will cow-tow to her, and even the director turns his head to her rule.

Her lawsuit-happy husband filed suit against John Edwards when he was contemplating running for re-election to his senate seat at the same time he was running for President. Since then, he had problems with alcohol and the police were called to his house by their children because he was beating his wife. After pulling political strings he got off with going to counseling. Now he's suing the counselors. Oh, and he's the chairman of the Randolph County Republican Party.

Morale at the zoo is a constant problem because the staff gets no respect from the management. The management is SO top-heavy, there are rumblings of adding on to the big education building where they all have offices.

It IS a great zoo, but it could be SO much better if the staff was treated with a bit of respect.

There's lots more, but I have to get back to work.

Holy shit.

Looks like full-fledged corruption and cronyism is running rampant in Asheboro. Where's a good reporter when you need one? This looks like a story the Independent could dig into with a serious investigative piece.

Behind Bars: The Decline and Fall of the North Carolina Zoo

Hope you'll stick around and help us get to the bottom of this.

Typical Republican cronyism

right here at the NC Zoo

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.