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National Zoo and Museums In Washington, D.C., Close Due To Government Shutdown

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Here's some fallout from the partial government shutdown. Garbage has piled up at national parks. Some federal loans have been delayed. And now, the Smithsonian Institution has closed its 19 museums as well as the National Zoo. The Smithsonian had managed to stay open this long thanks to reserve funds. That money has now run out. NPR's Rebecca Ellis has more.

REBECCA ELLIS, BYLINE: Anyone hoping to make it into Washington, D.C.'s, National Zoo today was greeted by a sign that reads...

KYOKO SHIBATA: (Reading) All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed today due to the government shutdown.

ELLIS: Kyoko Shibata (ph) recently moved from Japan to Bethesda, Md. Yesterday, she took her two daughters, Manami (ph) and Osaki (ph), to the zoo in D.C. for the first time.

SHIBATA: We really enjoyed, so my daughter said let's go today again.

ELLIS: Eight-year-old Manami wanted to see the lions and cheetahs they didn't have time for yesterday.

MANAMI: (Foreign language spoken).

SHIBATA: (Foreign language spoken) She's saying, oh, it's closed (laughter) my daughter was being excited to come again.

ELLIS: The lions and cheetahs are not receiving visitors today, but Linda St. Thomas, chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian, says there are still 200 people working to make sure the animals are cared for and fed. But people around the world will no longer be able to watch the animals being fed. The zoo's much loved and much viewed giant panda cam, which streams panda footage 24 hours a day, have been turned off. St. Thomas says the operators have been furloughed, as have two-thirds of Smithsonian staff.

LINDA ST THOMAS: People are upset that they're not staffing the panda cam. I understand that.

ELLIS: But she says people are upset about more than just the zoo.

ST THOMAS: That's just one part of the Smithsonian. I mean, there are many exhibitions in our museums that people have come great distances to see, so we understand that it's disappointing.

DIONGRI SAGARA: Very, very disappointing, yeah.

ELLIS: Diongri Sagara (ph) and her daughter Cassandra (ph) came to D.C. from Florida for a two-week vacation. It hasn't gone as planned.

SAGARA: The main reason that we came - we came because of the museums.

ELLIS: But when she stopped by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, she was upset to find a sign telling her it was closed.

SAGARA: Really sad - makes me want to cry.

ELLIS: From there, she headed to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

SAGARA: We're going to walk and cross our fingers (laughter).

ELLIS: No luck. That one was also closed. And Linda St. Thomas says there's just no way to know when they'll get it back open.

ST THOMAS: It really depends on Congress and the White House, so we just don't know.

ELLIS: But she says the Smithsonian will be ready to go shortly after they get funding. She says the museum plans to open by 10 a.m. the morning following the eventual end of the shutdown. Rebecca Ellis, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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