Saturday, November 21, 2020

Jess Casey

Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park will be granted €1.1 million in emergency Government funding due to financial difficulties caused by Covid-19 restrictions.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage confirmed it will allocate €1.6 million in grant funding to the sector, with €500,000 to be made available to almost 70 small and medium-size zoos and aquaria.

The majority of this emergency funding will go towards Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park in order to prevent their closure, according to the department.

This follows several days of campaigning after Dublin Zoo launched a campaign to highlight its commercial difficulties due to the pandemic.

It costs €500,000 per month to feed, house, and provide the highest level of care for the animals at Dublin Zoo, but without regular income from visitors the zoo is struggling to cover this.

The State does not ordinarily provide funding to the zoo sector but this has been an “incredibly challenging year”, according to Minister of State Malcolm Noonan.

“The outpouring of public support sparked by the Dublin Zoo appeal is testament to the great love so many people have for our zoos,” he said.

“I am mindful too of the staff, whose primary concern has always been the animals in their care.”

‘Safeguard employment’

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on many aspects of society.

“But it is important that we support this sector to ensure zoos do not face a welfare crisis this winter due to lack of access to funding,” he said.

“This will also safeguard employment and stimulate local economies in recovering by ensuring the continued operation of viable zoo establishments throughout the country.”

While Dublin Zoo has warned it may have to close permanently due to the lack of revenue from visitors, Sean McKeown, director of Fota, said his organisation has enough funding to last until March 2021.

“However if the current situation prevails with limitations on travelling into early March 2021, and without outside support, Fota Wildlife Park will also see itself faced with the possibility of closure by March 2021,” he said.

He said pre-Covid, Fota received an average of 460,000 visitors a year and visitor income amounted to €5 million annually.

The overall impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant a loss of 20 per cent in visitor numbers and income for 2020.

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