Alert – Sign the Online Petition on!

Knowland Park from above, © 2013 Steve Whittaker

Knowland Park from above
© 2013 Steve Whittaker


As you know, the zoo can’t start the bulldozers until they obtain special “incidental take” permits from state and federal wildlife regulatory agencies to allow them to “accidentally” kill threatened Alameda Whipsnakes during construction.

Through our public records act requests, we have learned that the zoo continues to deny the existence of the special maritime chaparral community that provides habitat for the whipsnake – and that they are claiming the removal of parts of the chaparral will actually BENEFIT the snake. But a new report by Dr Shawn Smallwood, a wildlife biologist with a PhD in ecology who is a researcher at UC Davis, suggests this claim is based on no scientific evidence whatsoever – and concludes that: “given the extremely limited distribution of Alameda whipsnake and the permanent constraints imposed on the whipsnake’s capacity to expand (i.e., recover) via habitat restoration or habitat enhancement due to human encroachment, the loss of any additional habitat could appreciably diminish the whipsnake’s chance of survival and recovery.” The clock is running – a decision must be made by early September.

WE NEED EVERY PARK SUPPORTER TO SEND A LETTER TODAY urging the US Fish and Wildlife Service to deny permits for this destructive project. To make it easy, we have created a letter on

If you’d prefer to send a letter by snail mail, send it WITHIN 5 DAYS to:

Ms. Kim Squires, Mr. Ryan Olah, Ms. Cay Goude
Endangered Species Program
US Fish and Wildlife Service
2800 Cottage Way Room-2605
Sacramento, CA 95825

If you write your own letter, please make these 3 key points:

  • the zoo’s expansion plan will destroy important habitat for a threatened species
  • it is not necessary to expand into this sensitive habitat and is against conservation principles; better alternatives exist
  • urge them to deny permits for the project in its current form

Opposition to the Zoo’s expansion plans continues to build. The powerful Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has now weighed in on the ongoing fight to protect Knowland Park’s rare habitat. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife urging the agencies to deny permits for the project in its current form. CBD expressed concern specifically about the threatened Alameda Whipsnake, noting that “We oppose the siting of this project on high quality whipsnake habitat – there are far better alternatives.”

Further, the CBD wrote that there was “absolutely no evidence” to support the zoo’s conclusion that the Knowland Park population of threatened Alameda Whipsnake might not be viable. Echoing calls from other environmental protection groups, CBD urged the zoo to relocate its California Trails exhibit and “make good on its promise to bring the story of extinction to the public in a manner befitting an organization interested in conservation. Until then,” CBD added, “we urge the regulatory agencies to continue to protect the Alameda whipsnake and the natural heritage of Knowland Park by withholding permits from this project.”

Oakland’s Budget: Last we heard, Oakland was planning to give the zoo almost a million dollars again this year. This makes no sense—especially when there has never been an audit of the zoo’s books, the zoo board voted to give bonuses totaling $150,000 last year, and the zoo refuses to open its books fully to the public. And why is the zoo now on its third Chief Financial Officer in as many years? We heard from an attendee at the zoo’s last board meeting that former zoo public relations front man Nik Dehejia, who ran the Measure A1 campaign for the zoo, has been named the new CFO. Hmmm….what’s wrong with this picture? And why don’t our politicians want to know?

If you think Oakland ought to demand open books from the zoo before giving them more public land and public funds, let your city council representatives know:

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