As more than 800,000 federal workers across the country grapple with an uncertain financial future during the U.S. government shutdown, there is at least one group that may stand to benefit from the impasse -- they're just not human.
Animals at the federally funded National Zoo, national parks and wildlife refuges have just received an open-ended vacation from human tourist crowds.
In the short term, at least, the situation appears to be a win-win for such animals.
"We are in the process of an orderly shutdown," Devin Murphy, spokesperson for the National Zoo told Discovery News earlier today. She explained that as of noon today, only essential staff members are in place.
"All of the animals are being cared for as usual," she assured.
Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, informed Discovery News that "the animals will follow their same indoor and outdoor schedules."
She is referring to the fact that, at night, many animals go into separate quarters for feeding and sleeping. They then move to roomier open-air exhibits during the day for public viewing.
The big difference is that now there is no public. As of today, all National Zoo gates -- vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle -- were closed and locked.
"It's now the fall, so we weren't in our prime season anyway," she said. "The zoo has still been pretty busy, though. We're usually open every day of the year except for December 25."