(WJLA) - At the National Zoo, most visitors want to see elephants, apes, and those cute and cuddly panda cubs - while invertebrates tend to be much lower on the "must-see" list.
The Zoo's invertebrate house, which is tucked in the basement of the Reptile Discovery Center, was temporarily closed on Monday to give staff a day to process the news that the exhibit will soon close permanently.
Invertebrates may be spineless, but zoologists point out that they are critical to life on earth, and that they are unsung heroes that make up 99-percent of the planet's species.
"We're making a very difficult decision here," said Dennis Kelly, National Zoo Director.
Kelly explains that the exhibit's annual million dollar budget - as well as the $5 million needed for upgrades - was unsustainable:
"We have many tanks that require life support and a staff of five...So to take care of these animals in a way that meets our standards is expensive."
According to Kelly, the park's strategic plan called for the eventual closure of the invertebrate house, and the creation of a more comprehensive "Hall of Biodiversity."
These animals will be moved to that future exhibit or to other zoos, while those with short life spans will simply stay here. Meanwhile, staff will be reassigned.
The invertebrate house will be permanently closed to the public on Sunday, June 22, meaning your last day to visit is this Saturday.