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 it from closure.
Dublin Zoo said it costs around €500,000 a month to feed and care for the animals, and warned it is running out of cash.
Director of the zoo, Dr Christoph Schwitzer, said the enforced closure due to Covid-19 and reduced visitor numbers when it was allowed to open have left it in “serious financial difficulty”.
By last night the appeal was on course to raise €1m from members of the public.
Discussions are also being held in Government about how to support the cash-strapped zoo. A senior source confirmed the Government wants to help the zoo and
is considering the best approach to take.
Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Micheál Martin promised to act to ensure Dublin Zoo stays open so it’s available “for generations to come”.
Sinn Féin leader 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
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.” He added that they
will “do everything we possibly can” to ensure it stays open.
“I’m working with the minister to make sure that happens,” he said.
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 it has 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.”
He said the Government is also engaging with Fota Wildlife Park in Cork in its efforts to support the sector.
Dublin Zoo is currently closed to the public due to coronavirus regulations, but the animal care team is still
looking after more than 400 animals.
Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu and Fair City star Rory Cowan were among those who ‘adopted’ animals at Dublin Zoo to support its fundraising drive.
The zoo has developed new ‘adoption packs’ and there are a range of animals to choose from, including elephant, red panda, gorilla, giraffe, rhino, penguin, okapi, lion, zebra, orangutan, wolf and snow leopard.
Ms Chu, who adopted an elephant, said: “It’s a Dublin institution, but quite a lot of people would have grown up with it as well. I would have grown up with the zoo, in a much smaller form. It is nice to have that space. You don’t expect it ever to not be there.”
Mr Cowan said: “I’ve just adopted four animals at Dublin Zoo. The zoo needs our help more than ever to stay open.”
Source: Irish News