Australian zoos and aquariums welcome government relief for animal care


The Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA) welcomes the announcement today from Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham and Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley of a $94.6 million government package to support zoos, wildlife parks, sanctuaries and aquariums during the COVID-19 response.

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.

“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” said Nicola Craddock, Executive Director at the Zoo and Aquarium Association.

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.

“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,” said Ms Craddock.

“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 Job Keeper Program will provide to eligible organisations, this new support package will help to see zoos and aquariums through to play their part in Australia’s recovery.

“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,” said Ms Craddock.

Beyond that, zoos and wildlife parks are supporting schools with remote education and, once restrictions lift, they stand to play a vital role in the mental wellbeing of Australian communities at a time when it will most certainly be needed.

“People will need public places where they can reconnect with nature, keep their children active and engaged and maintain appropriate physical distance in an outdoors venue with an abundance of space.”

“Thanks to today’s announcement, we are more optimistic for zoos and aquariums to weather the storm, continue a high level of care for their animals and be there for our communities out the other side.”

As a peak body, the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA) represents the collective voice of the zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries and wildlife parks across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea that operate to the highest standards.

It has a progressive, science-based approach to animal welfare. Using the Five Domains Model, ZAA grants accreditation to zoos and aquariums that have clearly demonstrated their commitment to positive animal welfare. This approach champions welfare from the animal’s perspective and it underpins all that they do.