Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

June 27, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Again today, I’m tying my blog post to a recent movie. This weekend, we watched a DVD of the 2011 movie “We Bought a Zoo,” starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. What we thought would be an interesting movie for our kids turned out to be a rather serious movie with often somber overtones. It did have its amusing parts and the kids liked the animal scenes, but overall I’m not exactly sure it was really a kid-friendly movie. That’s not to say I didn’t like it; I’d give it a solid B.

The story is focused on Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee, who is looking for a lifestyle change after his wife died. He finds an estate in the country for him and his two kids, only to find out it is a run-down zoo. Upon purchasing the estate, the rest of the movie follows his efforts, working with head zookeeper Johansson and the rest of the eclectic zoo staff, to refurbish the zoo. Much of the anguish comes as you see him writing check after check to pay for the animals, the upkeep and equipment needed to bring the zoo back to life.

The movie got me to wondering  — could he have applied for a federal grant for assistance? I checked the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and it appears that he could have applied under the Museums for America Program (45.301) under the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking that he was refurbishing a zoo, not a museum. However, the grant states that is available to all types of museums, large and small, including “aquariums, arboretums and botanical gardens, art museums, general museums, historic houses and sites, history museums, nature centers, natural history and anthropology museums, planetariums, science and technology centers, specialized museums, youth museums and zoological parks.” There it is – zoos!

Of course, further reading of the eligibility requirements notes that the zoo must be nonprofit and as I recall, I think the zoo in the movie was to be for-profit. Still, after seeing how close Mee’s dream had come to dying due to lack of funds, the idea of a federal grant could have come in handy — of course, if he had the wherewithal to manage it properly. We have some handbooks that would have really helped him there!

Do you know if any grants are available to for-profit zoos? My curiosity is piqued.

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