New support package for wildlife institutions

Wildlife institutions affected by a loss of visitor revenue during the COVID-19 lockdown are set to receive government support with nearly $15 million of funding available announced Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage.

“Eco-sanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, and wildlife rescue, hospital and rehabilitation facilities provide crucial support for the recovery of Aotearoa New Zealand’s indigenous and threatened species,” said Eugenie Sage.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 response have severely reduced wildlife institutions’ revenue from visitor admissions and philanthropic donations. The continued closure of New Zealand’s borders means revenue is likely to remain low for the 2020/21 financial year.

“The one-off funding of $14.89 million for 2020-21 will be administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and will mitigate the risk of closure for vital wildlife protection facilities.

“The protection and welfare of threatened species is at risk if these facilities close. Rehoming wildlife is not a sound option as the costs would be very high and this would require significant investment and intervention from DOC and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

“Captive-based conservation efforts such as Operation Nest Egg for rare kiwi such as rowi, and captive breeding for kākāriki/ orange-fronted parakeet, shore plover, Chesterfield and cobble skink recovery programmes are critical for the recovery of threatened species. The only known population of cobble skinks is at Auckland Zoo.

“The response to the aspergillosis disease outbreak in kākāpō in 2019 highlights the value of wildlife institutions. DOC staff were supported by conservation practitioners from wildlife hospitals, zoos and kiwi incubation centres. The ability to access skilled veterinary services prevented a devastating outcome for kākāpō.”

Eugenie Sage says wildlife institutions also develop and harness local community and volunteer support, and play a vital role in the education of young people.

“These unique places enable young people to connect with nature, learn about indigenous species and the need to protect their natural habitats” said Eugenie Sage.

The funding will cover urgent and critical operational costs to maintain animal welfare, protect and retain specialist jobs and prevent the collapse of recovery programmes for New Zealand ‘s most threatened species.

DOC will require proposals from wildlife institutions for funding from the support package.

Severely impacted wildlife institutions will receive funding within the next few weeks, allowing facilities to continue operating.

The funding for this support package comes from Budget 2020. Further information can be found at www.doc.govt.nz/wirf.

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