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National Zoo to close invertebrate exhibit

Monday - 6/16/2014, 12:42pm  ET

cuttlefish_natzoo.jpg
A common cuttlefish is one of the dozens of species housed in the invertebrate exhibit, which needs an estimated $5 million in improvements. The National Zoo announced Monday that June 21 would be the last day the exhibit will be open to the public. (Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian's National Zoo )

WASHINGTON - A collection of blue crabs, sea anemone, butterflies and other creatures will need to find new homes after the National Zoo announced it would close its invertebrate exhibit beginning Sunday.

Zoo officials decided to close the exhibit because of budgetary pressures. The building requires as much as $5 million in upgrades to equipment and life-support systems among other needed improvements, the zoo said in a statement.

Zoo Director Dennis Kelly called it a difficult decision that does not detract from the importance of the exhibit.

"The exhibit has been a hidden gem, cared for by passionate and expert staff. But this was a necessary decision for the financial and operational health of the our organization," Kelly said.

The invertebrate exhibit, which has a $1 million annual budget, is not included in the zoo's five-year plan or its 20-year master plan. However zoo officials hope someday to provide a "Hall of Biodiversity," which could include some invertebrates.

The exhibit's budget will be redirected to other programs within the zoo. Some of the creatures housed there could also be relocated within the zoo. However others will find new homes at other accredited zoos.

About 99 percent of all species are invertebrates. These small aquatic or land-based creatures do not have backbones and include bumblebees, clams and corals.

Saturday will be zoo visitors' last chance to see the creatures who reside within the exhibit, which first opened in 1987.

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