Christchurch zoo forced to seek donations to feed animals as income plummets during lockdown

Many of our zoos are under extreme pressure during the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, as the income they bring in from entry fees disappears.

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Christchurch’s Orana Wildlife Park has started fundraising to feed its 400 animals. Source: 1 NEWS

It's left Christchurch's Orana Wildlife Park to start fundraising for money it needs to feed the 400 animals housed there, including lions, tigers, rhinos and New Zealand’s only gorillas.

The zoo's Givealittle campaign has already raised $18,000 to help pay for essential costs, including food for the animals, heating for certain primates and for the staff who care for them.

Orana Wildlife Trust chief executive Lynn Anderson says 95 per cent of the zoo’s income is tied to the admission fee paid by visitors and cash is now running low.

“Orana Wildlife Park costs $70,000 a week to operate, and only 40 per cent of that is covered by the Government wage subsidy,” she says.

“The gorillas alone, they munch through $800 dollars of vegetables a week.”

A core crew of zoo workers have been on site in split teams, to help keep the animals safe over the lockdown period.

Native fauna manager Catherine Roughton says she’s noticed that many of the animals have started to miss the crowds, as they’re part of their everyday life.

“It's strange without any visitors,” she says. “When we went to give them their hay or a wee pat, they were way more interested than they normally are, so we're giving them a lot more attention.”

They’re having to find other ways to entertain the animals, with their three apes being allowed to watch Netflix occasionally to get through the lockdown boredom.

The Disney movie Ratatouille is proving a popular choice for gorilla Mahali, who chose to jump up on a hammock and watch the flick rather than enjoying a stunning Canterbury day outside.

Orana Wildlife Trust officials say they’ll do everything they can to keep things running as they always have, but they’ll need support from their local community when the restrictions lift.

“Your entry fees are going to get Orana back on its feet and with the borders closed for some time, we're looking for a community effort to help Orana get through,” says Ms Anderson, the chief executive.

“No matter what we have to do, our animals will remain well cared for. Orana and the beautiful animals will still be here at the end of Covid-19.”