The Most Expensive Animals in the Zoo

Pandas were in the news today, as the snow fell outside and we hunkered down with a fire and piles of newspapers. It seems that the Chinese government fleeces Zoo Atlanta and others with $80 million a year in rental fees for the priviledge of keeping the animals in their cages. The pandas limited diet of bamboo, thankfully, is assisted by hundreds of Georgians who grow the crop to feed Lun Lun and Yang Yang–84 pounds a day each.

But it is time, says Dennis W Kelly, top Zoo honcho, to renegotiate with the owners, or send the Ursas back to China. The bears are draining the coffers even though they are very popular with the Pandaholics who watch them on web cams and blog about them endlessly.

The Chinese are tougher on U.S. zoos than on Australia and Thailand. Those nations pay just $300,000 a year for their bears. “There’s a perception that U.S. zoos are very rich because when they come over the zoos are beautiful,” said Chuck Brady, CEO of the Memphis Zoo. He added that Memphis will lose $300,000 a year, since after the first few years, attendance drops way off.