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Australian Government announces funding for attractions’ animal welfare costs
The Federal Government is set to announce a $94.6 million package to help Australian zoos, aquariums, and other animal attractions with the upkeep of animals during the Coronavirus crisis.
While the businesses are in line for JobKeeper payments for staff costs, the new funding is expected to cover around six months of animal welfare operating costs
Advising that the initiative will provide vital assistance, Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham stated "this will be a lifeline for these popular tourism attractions across Australia who have had many of their revenue streams dry up during this crisis.
“It’s absolutely crucial our iconic zoos and aquariums can still operate on the other side and play a major role in helping our tourism industry to recover from this.
“We know our world-class zoos and aquariums are major tourism drawcards for many of our major cities and regional centres across Australia, with over 20 million visitors walking through the gates each year.
“We also shouldn’t underestimate the huge positive flow-on effects our zoos and aquariums provide to our economy.
“They bring thousands of visitors into communities who then spend millions of dollars visiting other attractions, sleeping in our hotels and dining in our restaurants."
The Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA) has welcomed the support, advising that the assistance comes as a great relief to ZAA-accredited wildlife organisations around Australia, who have been maintaining the high costs of animal care without any visitor admission income for the last month, and who face continued uncertainty about when they can reopen their gates.
ZAA Executive Director, Nicola Craddock stated "the support announced by the Government today shows recognition of the importance of our zoos and aquariums, as businesses that contribute to conservation, community, education and tourism, and that maintaining our Australian standards for animal welfare, even during difficult times, is essential.”
Funds from the support package will go towards the variety of costs associated with caring for exotic and native wildlife, many of which are threatened species.
ZAA-accredited zoos care for many animals that have specific and expensive requirements for their care. In aquariums for instance, ongoing power is required 24/7 for water treatment, pumps, UV sterilisers, ozone generators and temperature control for the aquatic enclosures.
Craddock added "in a zoo, a single lion can eat $265 of meat each week, feed and habitat maintenance costs $400 a week per koala, hay for elephants can be up to $2,000 per week and the ice production for penguins costs $90,000 per year.
“That’s just four of the approximately 2,500 species that ZAA-accredited zoos and aquariums care for. With these high fixed costs for animal care and welfare, this support will be a game-changer for helping ZAA’s zoo and aquarium members and other wildlife exhibitors through the coronavirus pandemic.”
Combined with the support that the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program will provide to eligible organisations, Craddock went on to say that this new support package will help to see zoos and aquariums through to play their part in Australia’s recovery.
She concluded "the support will help ZAA and accredited zoos and wildlife parks to continue their crucial role in conservation, including their work helping native wildlife to recover from a devastating bushfire season."
Image: Rhinocerous at Western Plains Zoo in NSW.
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