Eco-sanctuaries, zoos, rescue hospitals get $15m boost

Wildlife sanctuaries and zoos suffering from lost revenue due to the Covid-19 lockdown are being propped up with nearly $15 million in government funding.

The one-off funding for 2020-21 will be administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC) in order to mitigate the risk of closure for vital wildlife protection facilities.

Eco-sanctuaries, wildlife parks and rescue hospitals provide crucial support for the recovery of indigenous and threatened species, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said.

“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 protection and welfare of threatened species is at risk if these facilities close,” she said.

The funding will cover urgent and critical operational costs to maintain animal welfare, protect and retain specialist jobs and prevent the collapse or recovery programmes.

Sage said captive-based conservation efforts like 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 were critical for the recovery of threatened species.

“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.”

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