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National Zoo director to resign

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The director of the National Zoo in Washington will resign following the release of a study that found numerous problems that could endanger animals.

According to the Washington Post's Web site, in an e-mail message to zoo employee Wednesday afternoon, Smithsonian spokeswoman Evelyn Lieberman said zoo Director Lucy Spelman "had decided it would be best for her to move on at the end of the year."

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The announcement comes the same day as an interim report put together by the National Academy of Sciences found failure by zoo staff to follow established policies "in some cases ... endanger the safety of the animal collection."

Recent animal deaths at the National Zoo have raised concerns. In January 2003 two red pandas at the zoo died after eating poison spread to kill rats because procedures were not followed. The report singled out a problem with rodents as an ongoing problem.

Panel Chairman R. Michael Roberts said, "As far as we can see, there are problems at all levels of the zoo."

The committee's mandate came out of a March 2003 congressional hearing regarding animal care and management at the zoo. A final report is expected in the second quarter of this year.

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