Zoo's Invertebrate House Will Close to Public

There's not much time left to see your favorite invertebrates at the National Zoo -- the exhibit that houses dozens of creatures without backbones is closing to the public, the zoo announced Monday.

The last day to walk through the invertebrate house is Saturday, June 21.

From common cuttlefish to the giant hermit crab to plenty of butterflies, the exhibit has been home to small aquatic and terrestrial species since its opening in 1987.

"[It's] not a reflection of the importance of invertebrates or we feel about them," said Zoo Director Dennis Kelly in a press release. "The exhibit has been a hidden gem cared for by passionate and expert staff." 

Invertebrates, which the zoo hails as nature's "unsung heroes," make up 99 percent of all known living species, and they quietly play vital roles in Earth's ecosystems.

Kelly said that although closing the exhibit was a difficult decision, it was necessary for the operational health of the Zoo.

Closing the Invertebrate House, which has an annual operating cost of $1 million and currently needs $5 million in upgrades, will allow funding, staff and resources to be moved to other areas of the zoo that need attention, zoo officials said. Every permanent employee will remain on staff, but will be reassigned to other positions at the zoo.

If you're an invertebrate enthusiast, don't fret too much: the Zoo's long term vision includes opening a Hall of Biodiversity, which will include several invertebrate species.

Per Smithsonian protocol, most of the animals will be reassigned to new homes; some will be moved to Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facilities. Animals with short life spans will likely live out their lives in the Invertebrate House.

The Zoo will provide updates on the invertebrate collection via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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