Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry announced the funding for zoos and animals park to assist in running costs. Pictured with John Lever at Koorana Crocodile Farm.
Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry announced the funding for zoos and animals park to assist in running costs. Pictured with John Lever at Koorana Crocodile Farm.

$94.6m in federal funding for zoos

JOHN Lever is breathing a sigh of relief with the Federal Government announcement of the $94.6 million support package for exhibiting zoos, reptile and wildlife parks and aquariums across Australia who have been struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While he doesn’t have all the details yet, Mr Lever said any assistance at this point in time will be a blessing to himself and to all the other animal carers and keepers who have been struggling to find the funds to feed their animals since the onset of the pandemic.

“This funding is going to be a fabulous help, we had to close our doors, but we still need to have staff the help care for the animals and we still need to provide them with food,” Mr Lever said.

“We have 3500 crocodiles and that means over a tonne of food each week, mostly waste products of chicken which also needs to be freighted which is not cheap.

“Assistance has been long overdue; I just hope it is enough to keep us going.

“We have had no income since closing our doors to the public and our expenses keep coming with electricity, water, food and staff wages, we have all been running on empty, so the help is most welcome.

“We can’t wait to be able to welcome our visitors back but, in the meantime, we hope this funding will be enough to keep our heard above water until restrictions are lifted.”

Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said she is pleased to see a federal package announced to assist local zoos after making direct representation on their behalf to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

“I want to thank Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham and Minister for Environment Sussan Ley for their hard work in creating this package,” Ms Landry said.

“After hearing about the difficulties, they have been facing due to coronavirus restrictions, I called the Deputy Prime Minister to see what can be done for these vital tourism attractions and we have been able to deliver.

“Zoos are a vital organisation to the local community. They play a vital role in the conservation and protection of native and endangered species, while also being major tourism drawcards for cities and regions.”

Locally, Koorana Crocodile Farm, Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary and Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Zoo are eligible organisations who can apply for funding.

Ms Landry said zoos and attractions are doing it tough with many trying to do their best to attract donations by offering live streams of enclosures and virtual tours, but the revenue they get from admission fees, specialised accommodation and tours, as well as food, drink and in-store merchandise sales are sorely missed.

“The pandemic is putting immense pressure on their operating budgets, given the very high fixed operating and animal welfare costs associated with running a zoo or aquarium. These costs include veterinary care, plus things like constant 24/7 electricity for water treatment, pumps, and temperature control systems to control climates,” she said.

Eligible exhibiting zoos and aquariums will be able to use this vital funding to help with the ongoing animal welfare operating costs to help ensure they can remain viable and ready to welcome visitors when restrictions are eased.

Examples of the types of costs that the funding can be used for includes animal feed, veterinarian and other specialised care expenses, plus utilities directly related to the housing and caring for animals.

This funding support is in addition to the Job Keeper program which many zoos and aquariums are eligible to apply for.

The program is expected to support the tens of thousands of zookeepers, aquarists and veterinarians that work in zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and aquariums.