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Pandas will leave Adelaide Zoo in debt for a decade

Pandas will leave Adelaide Zoo in debt for a decade
January 19, 2011

Zoos South Australia has revealed that it will be repaying the cost of the giant pandas at Adelaide Zoo for a decade.

Following the anniversary of the pandas' Adelaide debut, Zoos SA Chief Executive Dr Chris West said the zoo was "not floating on a sea of panda dollars" and borrowed $6.7 million to turn the dream into reality.

West explained that "we are a charity, bringing very significant tourism revenue into South Australia but we are not loaded ourselves.

"We are stretched - against a balanced business plan - and will be repaying the bank for a while. The time-frame for paying off the panda debt depends on several factors including visitation, other revenue and panda babies, but at the current rate it looks like it will be closer to 10 years than to five."

Giant pandas Wang Wang and Funi are on loan from the Chinese Government for 10 years.

The Federal Government is paying $1 million each year to the Chinese Government for the international breeding program that aims to save the critically endangered species.

A further $5 million promised in the lead-up to the 2007 Federal Election by then Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, never arrived because Labor won.

The South Australian Government invested $18.9 million in the new entrance and fence, including a conference centre, but the zoo was left to find the $8 million for the panda exhibit from sponsors, donors and a bank loan.

The pandas have been a major drawcard for the zoo, pushing up the number of visitors by 70% from 349,000 visitors a year to 595,000 in the first panda year.

More than 30% of these of visitors came from interstate or overseas, most commonly from Victoria, NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and Europe.

Dr West says that extra 180,000 people visiting Adelaide will bring an estimated $192 million to the state each year.

Meanwhile Zoo membership has grown 25% to 32,500.

South Australian Tourism Minister John Rau agreed pandas were driving a "healthy rise in visitors from outside SA who have been spending money in our state.

"With only a handful of international zoos currently exhibiting this species, they are a real drawcard for South Australia and provide benefits for hotels, shops, restaurants and other tourist attractions."


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