This file photo shows Mei Xiang, the female giant panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington. The zoo would be closed to visitors in the event of a government shutdown.
(Photo: Susan Walsh AP)
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) - Tien Tien, the sire of the new panda baby, gave quite a show to National Zoo Visitors today... as he lumbered toward them... and also stuffed bamboo leaves into his mouth.
But come tomorrow, there could still be a show, but no one to watch it. A lot of today's visitors changed their plans so that they didn't miss out on seeing the animals before the shutdown.
"We were fearful that it would happen, the shutdown so we did actually plan out day at the Zoo because we weren't sure what tomorrow holds," said Shane LaQuire who is visiting from New Bern, NC.
It's Theresa and Scooter McMeans first trip to D.C. " We've changed our plans to make sure we'd see all the things that might close," said Theresa McMeans of Texas.
What about all the animals? They'll be fine. All workers in life support of animals...that's the veterinarians, and all the people involved in feeding and cleaning the animals, are considered essential. The popular Panda Cam on the internet will be turned off, but employees will still be monitoring the new Giant Panda baby.
But the rest of the staff... food service employees, people in maintenance or parking, guest services and exhibits, all will be furloughed.
Local Visitor Lornise Hayes is concerned about those furloughed workers. "The cost of living here is very expensive and it's not a good thing for your to lose your job at this point," she said.
The volunteers won't even be allowed in.
" I haven't talked to anyone who isn't angry the zoo is going to close," said Ron Springwater who volunteers on the Asia Trail.
The animals are very accustomed to seeing visitors every day. The Zoo usually only closes one day a year on Christmas. But if a shutdown brings a lengthy closure, it's unknown how the animals will react when the visitors come back.