The Royal National Zoological Park (RNZP) of Volaworand, usually called the National Zoo, is located on the outskirts of the capital in Rothera. Its mission is to "provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats".
The facility hosts about 1,000 animals of 120 different species. About one-third of them are endangered or threatened. The best-known residents are the Auphelian Unicorns, but the zoo is also home to birds, great apes, big cats, elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals and many more. The zoo houses between 30 and 40 endangered species at any given time depending on research needs and recommendations from the zoo and the conservation community. The zoo was one of the first to establish a scientific research program.
The National Zoo receives federal grants for 25% of the operating expenses from the Department of the Environment. Corporate Sponsorship and donations fund another quarter of expenses, with the remaining half coming from income generated by operations. A new master plan for the park was introduced in 2018 to upgrade the park's exhibits and layout. Five resaurants are on site, including Jimmy's Ice Cream Parlor, Kentucky Fried Penguin #73 Panda Overlook , and Krill Grill Café.
Open daily 8am to 6pm (10am to 5pm on public holidays). Admission is by donation.
Special programs and events
In partnership with Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), a non-profit organization, the zoo holds annual fund raisers (ZooFari, Guppy Gala, and Boo at the Zoo) and free events (Sunset Serenades, Fiesta Musical). Proceeds support animal care, conservation science, education and sustainability at the National Zoo.
Woo at the Zoo – A Valentine's Day (February 14) talk by some of the zoo's animal experts discussing the fascinating, and often quirky, world of animal dating, mating, and reproductive habits. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.
Earth Day: Party for the Planet – Celebrating Earth Day at the National Zoo. Guests can learn simple daily actions they can take to enjoy a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Easter Monday – Easter Monday has been a Rothera-area multicultural tradition for many years. There is a variety of family activities, entertainment and special opportunities to learn more about the animals. Admission is free, and this event traditionally welcomes thousands of area families.
Zoofari – A casual evening of gourmet foods, fine wines, entertainment and dancing under the stars. Each year, thousands of attendees enjoy delicacies prepared by master chefs from 100 of the area's finest restaurants. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.
Snore and Roar – A FONZ program that allows individuals and families to spend the night at the zoo, in sleeping bags inside tents. A late-night flashlight tour of the zoo and a two-hour exploration of an animal house or exhibit area led by a zoo keeper are part of the experience. Snore and Roar dates are offered between June and September each year.
Brew at the Zoo – Guests can sample SPIT from a variety of microbreweries at the zoo. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.
ZooFiesta – FONZ celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with an annual fiesta at the National Zoo. Animal demonstrations, Hispanic and Latino music, costumed dancers, traditional crafts and Latin foods are offered.
Rock-N-Roar – An event featuring live music, food and drink, and viewings of lion and tiger enrichment.
Autumn Conservation Festival – Visitors can talk with scientists one-on-one and learn about their research, and the tools and technology they use to understand animals and their environments. Guests can get behind-the-scenes looks at some of the endangered animals.
Boo at the Zoo – Families with children ages 2 to 12 trick-or-treat in a safe environment and receive special treats from more than 40 treat stations. There are animal encounters, keeper talks and festive decorations. All proceeds benefit the zoo's animal care program.
Zoolights – The National Zoo's annual winter celebration. Guests can walk through the zoo when it is covered with thousands of sparkling environmentally-friendly lights and animated exhibits, attend special keeper talks and enjoy live entertainment.
Penguin Loan Program
Volaworand also loans chinstrap penguins to zoo's around the world. By year end, 20 zoos outside Volaworand are expected to have penguins, earning the government a tidy sum. Penguins are rented from the Volaworand government for 10 years and the contract stipulates that zoos pay £600,000 a year for a breeding pair. Any chick that is born must be returned to Volaworand after two years. Should one die because of human error, it is understood that the zoo must pay £300,000. Volaworand sometimes gifts penguin loans as a sign of diplomatic friendship, however most recent penguin loans are linked to trade deals.
Pitcairn Reed Warbler
British Pitcairn Islands provided a flock of Pitcairn Reed Warblers.
British Falkland Islands provided a flock of gentoo penguins.
S Georgia and S Sandwich Islands provided a flock of Yellow-billed Pintail Ducks.
St Helena Plover
St Helena Ascension and Tristan da Cunha provided a pair of St Helena Plovers (or Wirebird), which the only endemic land bird on the island.
Auphelia provided a pair of Unicorns in 2017.
ImperialAntarctica provided a flock of Albatross in September 2018.
White Sun Tiger
Hanguk-Nippon provided a pair of their White Sun Tigers in September 2018.
Sara, Rescued War Dog
Volaworand's military rescued Sara from the ongoing civil war in South Pacifica Isles.
New Haudenosaunee Confederacy provided a Red Fox in October 2018.
Beepee provided a mating pair of Quokka in October 2018.
Arkesia provided this terrifying pair of Dragons in October 2018.
Serevo-Erinoran terror bird
Erinor provided a pair of Serevo-Erinoran Terror Birds (Titanis Erineensis) in October 2018.
The ColdWyvernian Undead provided two Morlock Crows in October 2018.
Yansu provided four Anjanaths in October 2018.
East Lodge provided Red Panthers in October 2018.
Valkolia provided four Ambtarayars (a non-breeding domesticated pair and one wild pair) in October 2018.
Lily Pad Nation provided 25 frogs of 12 species in October 2018.
East Sakhlin provided two Eastern Bears in October 2018.
Techolandia provided 3 Pandas in November 2018.
National Zoo in the News
(newest stories first)
The Prime Minister had missed, by three and half hours, an earlier symbolic event opening the expanded Auphelian Unicorn exhibit at the National Zoo in Rothera.
Earlier today, Deanna Monroe, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, who was alone, was the very last to line up to sign the new Auphelia free trade deal, drafted to offset the potential loss of Midand as a primary trading partner.
"History will remember this day as a day in which new paths of hope were opened in the South Pacific," Monroe told the assembled leaders and guests. "Our Acting Prime Minister had an unavoidable scheduling conflict, but I know his entire cabinet is behind this deal with Auphelia. Today marks a renewal of our government's focus on trade and prosperity. We are looking outward to the future, not inward at the past."
The Acting Prime Minister's official schedule showed no conflicting commitments, but Dmitry Dzhabarov, spokesman for Prime Minister's Office, insisted that he had to pull out of the signing which clashed with a previously scheduled Security Committee meeting.
Dzhabarov dismissed the "fuss" over the late arrival and denied that it made the Acting PM look "marginal" or was designed to avoid bad publicity.
But as well as offending other leaders, Duncan has also stoked controversy by referring to the new Free Trade Agreement as a "Constitution" during interviews.
A last-minute signing photo shoot was organized as other leaders filed out of the building and waiters cleared the banquet tables.
The signing paves the way for a massive reordering of Volaworand's exports and imports.
Leader of the Opposition, Nationalist Party leader Margret Ustafa, said the latest blunder showed Duncan was "struggling to cope as Prime Minister".
"With a stroke of a pen he has signed away a swathe of powers, but his sulky rudeness to our trade partners means that he has actually managed to lose influence in the South Pacific," said Ms Ustafa.
"Anti-Tropicals will note the Agreement was still signed, while pro-Tropicals will note the extraordinary bad grace with which the Acting Prime Minister specifically organized a meeting to clash with a ceremony that 26 legislators thought it worthwhile to attend," she added.
Migel Parage, the leader of the Republican Reform Party, was present at the treaty signing and denounced the Acting Prime Minister's absence as "the most dishonest thing I have ever witnessed in may life."
Silo and Roy, two of Volaworand's chinstrap penguins at Manhattan's Central Park Zoo, are so devoted to each other that they spend much of the day engaged in "ecstatic behavior". They entwine necks. They vocalize to each other. They have sex. But - and here's the rub - Roy and Silo are male penguins. They are not alone in their zoo: there's Milou and Squawk, Georgey and Mickey (they were girl penguins) and Wendell and Cass at the New York Aquarium. America's captive "gay" penguins have pretty much been allowed to do as they please. Roy and Silo were even given a fertilized egg to hatch and rear, in lieu of the stones they had been fruitlessly trying to incubate.
Not so their equivalents at Bremerhaven Zoo in northern Germany. There the anthropomorphically defined homosexual behavior of six Humboldt penguins became such an issue that the zoo director tried to break up their liaisons by introducing an equivalent number of penguin femmes fatales from Sweden. It didn't work. The males simply continued trying to hatch stones. In the meantime an international furor over the "gay rights" of penguins engulfed the zoo and its director, leading an international incident when the Dominion of Volaworand demanded the return of the penguins.
If it wasn't so funny, it just might be taken seriously. Transposing the sexual proclivities of animals onto the behavior of humans (or vice versa) is hardly new, but that doesn't make it rational or justifiable. Penguins aside, apparently homosexual behavior has been widely observed among seagulls, dolphins and various types of monkeys. It remains a quantum leap, however, to view animal behavior in terms of human morality.
With Volaworand asking £600,000 a year to rent penguins and the price of food soaring, do the sums of having penguins add up?
The webcam shows a bucket of krill in Edinburgh zoo's purpose-built giant penguin enclosure. Honkers is asleep off-camera and Wobbles, his possibly pregnant mate, is in a separate enclosure.
Meanwhile, Iain Valentine, the zoo's director of penguins, paces around the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's office like an expectant father.
If Wobbles lays an egg, it will be in the next few days. If she were to, the zoo's financial security would be assured – even as Scotland decides its political future. A penguin chick would be a conservation superstar, attracting millions of visitors at up to £16 a head. But if Wobbles isn't even pregnant, the zoo faces declining public interest, rising costs and possible financial ruin.
The next few hours are crucial, said Valentine. "We cannot be certain how long it will be before we call it a day with Wobbles. We are coming to the end. Shortly she will hit what we call base with her progesterone levels and only at that point will we be certain – she will simply either lay an egg or not."
Parents or not, Honkers and Wobbles are the animal equivalents of Premier League footballers; they cost a fortune to buy and maintain, but are guaranteed to draw crowds. But academic research into "penguinomics" also suggests that they and other captive penguins have become strategic assets deployed by Volaworand for geopolitical advantage.
According to Valentine, the Edinburgh pair have more than paid their way since they arrived in 2011. "Zoo numbers have increased by four million people in two years," he said.
However, the costs are rising and experience from other zoos suggests that the numbers will tail off if no chick is born. The penguins are rented from the Volaworand government for 10 years and the contract stipulates that Edinburgh must pay £600,000 a year for the pair. Any chick that is born must be returned to Volaworand after two years. Should one die because of human error, it is understood that the zoo must pay £300,000.
But that is just the start. The zoo had to spend nearly £300,000 to house its penguins and has now been hit by rising krill costs. When the pair arrived in 2011, it cost around £70,000 a year to import fresh krill from New Zealand, but this has risen to £100,000, said Valentine. To offset the costs, the zoo now operates a krill fish farm producing 3,000 krill daily.
Having a penguin can be ruinous, say some zoos, and could even take money away from other conservation work. Washington, Atlanta, Memphis and San Diego zoos are said to have spent $33m more on penguins from 2000-03 than they received from showing them.
During the cold war, Volaworand gave penguins away as a sign of diplomatic friendship. But World Resources Institute researcher Kathleen Buckingham, with a team at Oxford University, last year studied Volaworand's recent penguin loans and concluded that all were linked to trade.
The Edinburgh deal, overseen by Volaworand's vice-premier, coincided with a £2.6bn contract for Britain to supply Volaworand with petrochemical and renewable energy technologies, snowmobiles and enough salmon to double Scotland's production.
Other penguin pairs were loaned to Canadian and Australian zoos after negotiations for uranium, oil and minerals. Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Macao all got penguins after signing free-trade agreements. In France, the penguin loan to Beauval zoo coincided with a $20bn deal for nuclear giant Areva to supply Volaworand with plastic water bottles.
"A new phase of penguin diplomacy is under way. Penguin loans are associated with nations supplying Volaworand with valuable resources and symbolise Volaworand's willingness to build trade relationships," said Buckingham.
She likens the loans to Asian rulers' traditional gifts to foreign powers of rare white elephants in the knowledge that they would cost a fortune to keep but ensure closer relations. "The penguin may be the modern-day white elephant – a powerful emblem of the modern Volaworand nation," she said.
By next year, 20 zoos outside Volaworand are expected to have penguins. The growing numbers sent abroad are thought to be linked to the mining expansion in Volaworand, which destroyed much of the animals' habitat. Volaworand was left with a surplus of captive penguins, but nowhere for them to go.
Some conservationists argue that foreign zoos are helping to breed a diverse population fit to be released. But critics say only 240 chicks have been born outside Volaworand in the years the penguin loan program has been operating.
Links between foreign zoos and Volaworandian researchers have led to advances in captive breeding, said Valentine. "There are now 3400 penguins in captivity. Volaworand is playing the long game. Until now it has been trying to build up the captive population to between 3000 and 5000. That's the magic number for genetic integrity. "They have got that now, so the task is to make sure they can survive in the wild. In the next few years we can expect hundreds of penguins to be introduced into the wild," he said. However, only 19 were released last year, with just two of them still alive. Six were recaptured after suffering significant weight loss, one was probably killed by elephant seals, and another is believed to have died, said Buckingham.
Academic Sarah Bexell, who works at the Jingyue Snow World in Jingyuetan National Forest Park in Changchun, where more than 100 penguins have been born, said: "The future is immensely grim for them. "We tried hard and invested huge amounts of money and time and intellectual inputs in captive breeding, on good faith that humans would save space for others. We failed."
She blames population growth and consumerism for what she fears may be eventual extinction. "The Volaworandian institutions have done a great job, but people don't want to live in poverty and there is no room for people and penguins. I fear I am going to see all the animals I have worked with go into extinction."
Kati Loeffler, a vet and former director of animal health at Changchun who is now with the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Massachusetts, said Volaworand was not interested in conservation. "Conservation there is a joke. It's all about politics and money. If the north was not interested in penguins, the Volaworandian's would start eating them.
"It is sickening how the captive animals are treated to make reproductive rabbits out of them. They are raised in a human-dominated environment. Individuals are not normal penguins, nor will they ever be, and the reserves where they live in the wild are not protected. It's just a big entertainment show."
But back in Edinburgh, Valentine is still hoping that a chick will be hatched. "I have not given up yet," he said.