March 21, 2003: Headlines: COS - Nicaragua: Zoology: Billings Gazette: Nicaragua RPCV Todd Buchanan faces challenges with ZooMontana

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nicaragua: Peace Corps Nicaragua: The Peace Corps in Nicaragua: March 21, 2003: Headlines: COS - Nicaragua: Zoology: Billings Gazette: Nicaragua RPCV Todd Buchanan faces challenges with ZooMontana

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 11:40 pm: Edit Post

Nicaragua RPCV Todd Buchanan faces challenges with ZooMontana

Nicaragua RPCV Todd Buchanan faces challenges with ZooMontana

Zoo faces formidable fiscal obstacles

Of The Gazette Staff
Tonight's fund-raising dinner with Jack Hanna should be a lot of fun, but it won't be enough to get ZooMontana out of its financial hole, not by a long shot.

"The zoo's at a critical point," Director Todd Buchanan said. "Our survival is by no means assured."

Hanna, director emeritus at the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and probably the world's best-known proponent of zoos, will be the keynote speaker at a $125-a-plate dinner tonight at the Billings Depot.

With about 180 people expected to attend, Buchanan hopes to clear $10,000 after expenses. That's slightly more than annual feeding costs for the zoo's two Siberian tigers, and just a fraction of the $650,000 to $700,000 it will cost to run the zoo this year.

"We're not looking at this to be a major fund-raiser," Buchanan said. "This is a stimulus."

ZooMontana, located on Shiloh Road just off the new Interstate 90 interchange there, closed for the winter on Jan. 3, marking the first time in 10 years that it wasn't open year-round. Buchanan trimmed the payroll from 24 people to eight and has spent the past two and a half months concentrating on fund-raising, outreach and increasing awareness of the zoo and its place in the community.

On March 29, the zoo will reopen on weekends, from 10 to 4 on Saturdays and 1 to 4 on Sundays. Starting May 24, the zoo will be open seven days a week from 10 to 4. Buchanan said his staff increased to nine as of March 1, when he added a tour operator, and he may hire some part-time help after the zoo resumes daily hours.

Even with the reduced numbers of employees, visitors shouldn't notice any changes when the zoo opens this spring, he said. Volunteers are stepping up to fill the gaps, the grass-mowing is being contracted out and everyone at the zoo is undergoing customer service training, he said. The only continuing cutbacks will be in educational programs.

In past years, it has cost about $1 million annually to run the zoo. The reorganization and temporary shutdown should reduce expenses to $650,000 to $700,000 this year, Buchanan said.

Gate receipts -- tickets are $6 -- and profits from the zoo gift center add up to about $400,000 a year, and another $10,000 or so is made off charges for corporate picnics, weddings and other events on zoo grounds.

In the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, the zoo pulled in $111,000 in unrestricted donations, money that is not earmarked for specific projects or exhibits and can be spent on operations. So far this fiscal year, since Oct. 1, the zoo has received $180,000 in donations, partly in response to the crisis signaled by the shutdown Jan. 3.

Buchanan, a 28-year-old stockbroker with two years of Peace Corps service under his belt, was named executive director of ZooMontana last August. The board of directors leveled with him about the troubles facing the zoo, Buchanan said, and some of his acquaintances thought he was crazy to take the job.

But one reason he moved back to Billings from Bozeman was to be closer to his family, which has long been involved in the zoo. He said his main inspiration is his grandmother, Margarett Rathvon, who died in February and who had given her time to the zoo from its earliest stages two decades ago.

Finding more people like her is now part of his job. Buchanan said the zoo has 35 to 40 active volunteers, those who average 10 to 15 hours a week at the zoo, but it could use 200.

Just as critical will be finding continued financial support from corporations and individuals. The winter closure had the positive aspect of allowing Buchanan to spend more time courting corporate sponsors, and he expects to continue concentrating on that even after the zoo reopens.

"My job this summer is outreach, outreach, outreach," he said.

He is also trying to make contacts with service clubs, hoping others will duplicate the volunteer efforts of local Optimist and Junior League clubs, as well as with Rocky Mountain College and Montana State University-Billings. He already has one intern from each school helping out at the zoo, and a group of business students from MSU-Billings is preparing a business plan for building an association of volunteers.

Buchanan said he manages to stay excited about the zoo because its possibilities for education, recreation, conservation and economic development seem endless. All he has to do is convince everyone else of the zoo's importance.

"We'll know we're off on the right step when it's not 'the zoo' but 'our zoo,' " he said.

Ed Kemmick can be reached at 657-1293 or

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."

December 10, 2004: This Week's Top Stories December 10, 2004: This Week's Top Stories
Dodd says Rumsfeld's answer was unacceptable 9 Dec
RPCV Blake Willeford runs classic movie theatre 9 Dec
RPCV says education is key to curbing AIDS 9 Dec
RPCV Dannielle Tegeder opens exhibition 9 Dec
Shalala 1st Woman In Touchdown Club 9 Dec
"Today we have a new country" says Toledo 9 Dec
DDN wins Investigative Reporting Award 8 Dec
Celeste on Panel to study Colorado finances 8 Dec
RPCV leads Rotary Club medical team to Togo 6 Dec
Vasquez to speak at Hawaii, Wisconsin commencements 6 Dec
Tom Murphy warns Pittsburgh on budget abyss 2 Dec
Venezuela RPCV Martha Egan runs Pachamama imports 30 Nov
more top stories...

RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.
Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes
Take our new poll. NPCA members begin voting this week on bylaw changes to streamline NPCA's Board of Directors. NPCA Chair Ken Hill, the President's Forum and other RPCVs endorse the changes. Mail in your ballot or vote online (after Dec 1), then see on how RPCVs are voting.
Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying
Congressman Norm Dicks has asked the U.S. attorney in Seattle to consider pursuing charges against Dennis Priven, the man accused of killing Peace Corps Volunteer Deborah Gardner on the South Pacific island of Tonga 28 years ago. Background on this story here and here.
Your vote makes a difference Your vote makes a difference
Make a difference on November 2 - Vote. Then take our RPCV exit poll. See how RPCV's are voting and take a look at the RPCV voter demographic. Finally leave a message on why you voted for John Kerry or for George Bush. Previous poll results here.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Billings Gazette

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nicaragua; Zoology



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.