Government comes to the aid of the animals

FUNDING LIFELINE FOR ZOOS

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Far North wildlife parks have welcomed the news of much-needed funding. Image: Kate Barnard.
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Zoos and aquariums have been handed a much-needed lifeline with the Federal Government unveiling a $94.6 million support package to help them get through the coronavirus crisis.

A number of local FNQ operators are eligible for the funding including the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas, Daintree Wild Zoo, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, Birdworld Kuranda, Rainforestation Nature Park, Cairns Aquarium and Research Centre, Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome, and Kuranda Koala Gardens.

The CaPTA Group who runs the Wildlife Habitat among other zoos in the Far North said they were comforted by the news of funding to assist with the caring of their animals.

The funding means money can be spent on food, medicine, enclosures and enrichment for the animals without dipping into financial hardship, at a time when there is no revenue coming in.

It is also hoped it will help ensure zoos and aquariums remain viable and ready to welcome visitors when restrictions are eased.

The CaPTA Group Operations and Projects Director, Michael Woodward, said they are grateful for the support they have received from the government and the whole community during this difficult time.

 “Caring for our wildlife to the highest standard has always been a priority and we continued to do so out of our own pocket. Our wildlife management and keepers have been amazing -they have really gone above and beyond,” he said.

“The extra assistance through both this and the JobKeeper package means not only will we be keeping our family business afloat, we can keep our CaPTA family, both the team and the wildlife well cared for.

“This will leave the business better positioned to return to our marketing activities to assist with bringing tourists back to the region when it is appropriate. We look forward to re-opening our world-class attractions at the end of this with even further improvements,” he said.

Operations such as CaPTA Group play a vital role in the conservation of national wildlife and eco-systems, running different programs such as the Tropical Animal Rehabilitation Centre (TARC) at Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas.

TARC provides care to displaced, injured, sick or orphaned native Australian wildlife, whilst continuing involvement in conservation programs and research. This facility relies solely on donations for its operation.

Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he had been working closely with operators to ensure this lifeline was forthcoming.
“There was no way I was going to sit by and watch these attractions, but more importantly the animals, face an uncertain future because they will be absolutely critical to the recovery phase,” Mr Entsch said.

“We know Tropical North-Queensland’s world-class wildlife sanctuaries and aquariums are major tourism drawcards for the region.

“We also shouldn’t underestimate the huge positive flow-on effects our zoos and aquariums provide to the local economy.

“They bring thousands of visitors into the region who then spend millions of dollars visiting other attractions, sleeping in local hotels and dining in local restaurants.”

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the funding would help ensure Australia’s zoos and aquariums could continue to provide quality treatment and care to their animals during this time.

“While COVID-19 may be keeping visitors away, zookeepers, aquarium owners and veterinarians continue to play a lead role in wildlife recovery after the bushfires, from treatment and rehabilitation to the development of insurance populations,” Ms Ley said.

“At the same time, they are caring for millions of animals who live permanently within their network and this is critical funding to support the welfare of those animals along with the vital ongoing role zoos play in conserving our environment and protecting native species.”

Eligible exhibiting zoos and aquariums will have access to a grant that contributes towards up to six months of its animal welfare operating costs.

This includes animal feed, enclosure, health and other specialised care expenses, and utilities directly related to the housing and caring for animals.


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