Dublin Zoo to receive Government support to stay open, Taoiseach says

ireland
Dublin Zoo has warned it may be forced to permanently close its gates to the public due to ongoing financial losses
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James Cox

The Government will intervene to support Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park as they strugggle financially during the pandemic, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told the Dáil.

Dublin Zoo had earlier warned it may be forced to permanently close its gates to the public due to ongoing financial losses.

Animal care at the zoo costs €500,000 per month and emergency cash reserves are starting to run out.

Although Dublin Zoo is currently closed to the public because of Covid-19 restrictions, the dedicated animal care team is still providing care to over 400 animals.

The “Save Dublin Zoo” fundraising campaign was launched on Wednesday morning to help cover some of these costs.

However, within five hours of making its plea, the zoo had raised more than €500,000 from donations.

The organisation said it was “lost for words” in a post on its social media accounts on Wednesday afternoon.

In the Dáil on Wednesday, Mr Martin said the Government “will do everything we possibly can to ensure Dublin zoo stays open and I will be working with Ministers to make sure that happens”.

He was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald who highlighted Dublin Zoo’s appeal for assistance, and Cork East Fine Gael TD David Stanton who appealed for assistance for Fota in Cork.

Ms McDonald said closure of the zoo would be devastating. She said the zoo did not generally rely on Government money “but it needs help now”.

Speaking on the launch of the fundraising campaign, the director of Dublin Zoo, Dr Christoph Schwitzer, said: “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.

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“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.”

'Calling on the people of Ireland'

He added: “At this time of year, we are usually in the middle of Wild Lights and making preparations for the busy Christmas period, but instead we find ourselves fighting for our future and calling on the people of Ireland to answer our call and donate if possible.

“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. We are now asking those who are able to help us, to give what they can and help raise awareness for the Save Dublin Zoo campaign.”

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Dublin Zoo operations manager, Gerry Creighton said: “For generations, we have been a place where families and friends come together to connect with nature, learn about animals and be inspired together.

“We can no longer support ourselves under current restrictions and are running out of time. Please help us Save Dublin Zoo. Even the smallest donations will help see us through these uncertain times, so we can all experience the magic, joy and learning of Dublin Zoo again soon.”

As well as donating to the Save Dublin Zoo campaign, people can start their own fundraisers for the zoo with details available on the website.

Dublin Zoo is a not-for-profit organisation which does not receive statutory funding. Revenue streams, in the form of gate receipts and onsite sales, have all but evaporated because of Covid-19 and to date Dublin Zoo has lost €8.2 million in potential revenue.

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