watch it: “Save the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium! PSA”

How does an exit interview with a porcupine go, do you think?

There’s the factor here, with this video, of a PSA being posted online, with the explicit hope that it will go viral and help the cause. That’s worth noting, and we’re sure to see even more of this in the future.

And then there’s just this: I love the Bronx Zoo, and I’d hate to see how it would be impacted by the 55 percent budget cut New York governor David Paterson has proposed for 2009 for 76 zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums across New York State (including the Coney Island Aquarium, which is also a jewel). Worse, he wants to cut all state funding entirely in 2010.

The Bronx Zoo’s “save the zoo” initiative reminds us that these institutions

serve a vital role in our state’s environmental agenda and pump millions of dollars into our economy.

These severe cuts to the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums (ZBGA) budget line not only put New York’s zoological and botanical resources at risk, but seriously compromise the financial health of the living museums that host 12 million visitors annually, and attract millions of tourism dollars to New York. The Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, alone, generated more than $289.6 million in economic activity in fiscal year 2008!

The Bronx Zoo, the Coney Island Aquarium, and the New York Botanical Garden — which would also be impacted by these proposed budget cuts — aren’t merely New York treasures but national treasures, and important educational facilities as well, as a press release from the Coalition of Living Museums

Karl Lauby, The New York Botanical Garden Vice President for Communications commented, “Living Museums, like The New York Botanical Garden, provide educational services to hundreds of thousands of area children and families, all inspiring future generations of environmentalists who will care for the fragile plants and wildlife of the Earth.”

“In these challenging times, families both need and deserve these refuges across the State to experience and learn about nature. Imagine if these sanctuaries were no longer as accessible to millions of New York residents,” said Sharon Myrie, Vice President of Education at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

According to a 2008 national public opinion survey, 79 percent of Americans believe that zoos and aquariums are good for their local economy, and an impressive 80 percent believe that zoos and aquariums are important enough to local communities to be supported by government funding.

Of course, hard times are hard times for a reason, but when our priorities are so out of skew that our leaders deem it more important to ensure that the very rich pay little or no taxes at all while essential public resources like zoos go underfunded, something has to be done. It’s not that there’s no money — it’s that the money is going to the wrong places.

Visit the Web sites of the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society for more info on drives to save the parks.

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