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Published: Tuesday, 1/29/2008

Zoo's stance on climate woes sparks a backlash

One thing has emerged about Anne Baker's style as the Toledo Zoo's executive director: She'll stand up for animals, even at the risk of enduring backlash from those who want to turn climate change into a political issue.

Ms. Baker told members of the zoo's board during their monthly meeting yesterday she's proud to have participated in a Nov. 29 news conference the zoo hosted about the polar bear's possible listing as a federally endangered species because of global warming.

She and Randi Meyerson, the zoo's curator of mammals, spoke in favor of the designation at that event, along with representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ohio Environmental Council.

"If we are going to advocate for animals, we have to advocate for their environments and their environments are changing," Ms. Baker, who took over the zoo's helm less than 22 months ago, told her board.

The zoo got eight to 10 calls and "virtually all accused us of taking a political stand," Ms. Baker said.

She noted that Ms. Meyerson began the news conference by stating that's exactly what the zoo was trying to avoid.

Only four polar bears were born in captivity in the United States last year. Three were at the Toledo Zoo; the other was at the Brookfield Zoo in suburban Chicago.

The polar bear cubs were credited by the zoo's finance director, Allison Duncan, for 2007 attendance and gate receipts that surpassed expectations.

According to preliminary, unaudited figures, the zoo took in nearly $23.3 million in revenue last year, or $982,000 more than anticipated.

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