zoo support | 

Government considers bailout for Dublin Zoo as popular attraction issues public appeal

A southern white rhinoceros calf at Dublin Zoo (Photo: Patrick Bolger)

A southern white rhinoceros calf at Dublin Zoo (Photo: Patrick Bolger)

Philip Ryan

The Government is considering a bailout for Dublin Zoo over fears the popular visitor attraction could be forced to close its gates due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The move comes after the zoo issued a public appeal for financial support to save the popular Phoenix Park attraction form closure.

Dublin Zoo said it costs around €500,000 a month to feed and care for animals and warned that it is running out of cash . It also launched a charity drive to raise for funds for the animals during the pandemic.

However, Independent.ie reports discussions are being held in Government about how to support the cash-strapped zoo.

A senior source confirmed the Government wants to help the zoo and are considering the best approach to the situation faced by the popular attraction.

The zoo is currently closed to the public due to coronavirus regulations but the animal care team is still providing care to more than 400 animals.

Last year, more than a million people visited the zoo and in 2018 it had 1.2m visitors.

However, Covid-19 restrictions means the Zoo’s main source of income has been cut off and it has put the entire operation at risk of collapse.

Dublin Zoo director Dr Christoph Schwitzer launched the Save Dublin Zoo campaign to raise much-needed funds to help care for the animals.

“We understand this is a challenging time for everyone, so we are asking people to only give what they can – every donation counts no matter the size,” Dr Schwitzer said.

“We have relied on our emergency cash reserves to remain open when allowed, but even then visitor number restrictions due to social distancing have made it near impossible to generate enough revenue to just break even.

“Without financial support we are facing an uncertain future and may have to close.”

He pointed out this time last year time of year, the zoo was in the middle of its annual Wild Lights event and making preparations for the busy Christmas period.

“Instead we find ourselves fighting for our future and calling on the people of Ireland to answer our call and donate if possible,” he said.

“We are so grateful for the messages of support from our devoted visitors and annual pass holders who have shown an outpouring of love and compassion from the start,” he added.

Speaking in the Dáil Taoiseach Micheál Martin has promised the Government will act to ensure Dublin Zoo stays open so it’s available “for generations to come”.

It comes after the zoo launched an appeal to the public for help to raise funds to help it continue as it has been devastated by the impact of Covid-19 restrictions.

The zoo has animal care costs of €500,000 per month and director Dr Christoph Schwitzer has said it is “in serious financial difficulty”.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said the zoo’s closure would be “devastating” for local employment and tourism.

“The zoo is one of our key tourist attractions not to mention the very special place that Dublin Zoo occupies for children and families for generations right across the island,” she added,

She suggested that a €500,000 fund for zoos is not enough and she appealed to Mr Martin to intervene.

She said the zoo doesn’t rely on public monies “but it needs help now”.

Mr Martin said: “The Government does not want Dublin Zoo to close” and it will “do everything we possibly can” to ensure it stays open.

“I’m working with the minister to make sure that happens,” he added.

He noted that Bertie Ahern “to give him his due” was involved in a very significant investment in the zoo when he was Taoiseach.

Mr Martin said its been some time since the zoo benefited from State capital funding.

“In my view given the extraordinary circumstances of a global pandemic – a 100 year event – that Government has to intervene here and… work with Dublin Zoo to make sure that it is available for generations to come.

“I intend to act on that.”

Later he said the Government is also engaging with Fota Wildlife Park in Cork in its efforts to support the sector.

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