Australia’s zoos and aquariums will receive a much needed funding lifeline with the Morrison Government today unveiling a $94.6 million support package to help them get through the coronavirus crisis.
This funding will assist exhibiting zoos and aquariums with the fixed operational costs associated with the caring of their animals, while also helping to ensure they remain viable and ready to welcome visitors when restrictions are eased.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the initiative would provide vital assistance for Australia’s exhibiting zoos and aquariums that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This will be a life ine for these popular tourism attractions that have had many of their revenue streams dry up during this crisis,” Mr Birmingham said.
“It is absolutely crucial that the zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and aquariums in Tropical North-Queensland can continue to operate on the other side and play a major role in helping our tourism industry to recover from this.”
Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he had been working closely with operators to ensure this life line was forthcoming.
He said eligible FNQ operators include Birdworld Kuranda, Rainforestation Nature Park, Cairns Aquarium and Research Centre, Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome, Daintree Wild Zoo, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, Kuranda Koala Gardens and Wildlife Habitat.
“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.
In addition to this support to help with operational costs, zoos and aquariums who meet the criteria will be able to apply for the JobKeeper program to assist with staffing costs.
Austrade will work with the Zoo and Aquarium Association to identify eligible members, as well as state and territory tourism organisations to identify non-members which may be eligible for financial assistance.
This initiative is part of the Morrison Government’s $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus.