National Zoo hosted a party that so loud it could be heard for blocks. Neighbors complained on the Cleveland Park Listserv and to the Zoo director, pointing out that not only was the noise bad for the neighbors, but it must have been disturbing for the animals. The Zoo sent a letter to the neighbors, a semi-apology, claiming that the incredibly loud event did "not stress our animals," and that the Zoo won't hold any events past 11pm every again "except in rare and extraordinary circumstances" because "the Zoo must seek revenue generating events."
The Zoo noted that it gave "our outdoor animals the option of staying outside or choosing their indoor shelter." I wonder how the option to stay indoors was presented to the animals. Before the party started? Once the loud noise began? Not that it really mattered because this party was so loud that it penetrated homes blocks away.
Here is the text of the Zoo director's letter:
On behalf of the Smithsonian's National Zoo, I would like to apologize for any disturbance caused to you or your household stemming from our Halloween event, Night of the Living Zoo, held on Friday, October 29, 2010. We pride ourselves on our good standing in the community and regret any inconvenience we may have caused.
I assure you that the event did not stress our animals. Their safety and well-being are our primary concern, and our professional staff and experienced interpreters were present during the event to provide ongoing assessments. As a follow-up, I have requested a specific animal care report to address the neighbor concerns raised this weekend. This report indicated that our animals displayed no signs of stress throughout the weekend. Our diurnal animals remained asleep and nocturnal animals seemed unconcerned by the noise outside. We give our outdoor animals the option of staying outside or choosing their indoor shelter.
We plan carefully for the safety and well-being of our staff and guests as we continue to offer unique venues at the Zoo. The Night of the Living Zoo event was an opportunity to introduce our living collection as well as our research and conservation work to a new group of guests.
From this perspective, the event was extremely successful, and we were able to raise necessary funds to support our operations and conservation research.
In this difficult economic climate, the Zoo must seek revenue generating events. The Friends of the National Zoo, our member support organization, hosted this event for the first time in 2009. It was deemed highly successful, and we received no complaints from the surrounding community. I will continue to carefully review each and every event proposed for the National Zoo.
In fact, I've already made a few decisions surrounding special events at the Zoo. No event will last past 11 p.m. except in rare and extraordinary circumstances. We will more closely monitor noise levels and adjust accordingly, as we did last Friday. We will only host events appropriate to our mission and do everything we can to minimize disruptions to the community. We will also examine ways in which we can communicate better with the community. Finally, we will not host an adult Halloween event in 2011 and instead, will take the time to study what we need to do in order to realize all our event goals.
New to Washington, D.C., I, too, have chosen to live in this neighborhood which is within walking distance to the Zoo. As a resident, I want to enjoy the benefits a wonderful institution like the National Zoo can offer. Your concerns are important and valid to me as your neighbor and also as the director of the Zoo.
Again, please accept my apology and thank you for your patience as we strive to do our best at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.
Dennis W. Kelly
Smithsonian Institution National Zoological Park