Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park are to be granted €1.1m in emergency government funding due to their current financial difficulties caused by Covid-19 restrictions.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has confirmed it is to allocate €1.6m in grant funding to the sector, with €500,000 to be made available to almost 70 small and medium-size zoos, and aquaria.
The majority of this emergency funding will go towards Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park, in order to prevent their closure, according to the department.
This follows several days of campaigning after Dublin Zoo launched a campaign to highlight its commercial difficulties due to the pandemic.
It costs €500,000 per month to feed, house, and provide the highest level of care for the animals at Dublin Zoo, but without regular income from visitors, the zoo is struggling to cover this.
The State does not ordinarily provide funding to the zoo sector but this has been an “incredibly challenging year”, according to Minister of State Malcolm Noonan.
"I am mindful too of the staff, whose primary concern has always been the animals in their care.”
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on many aspects of society.
“But it is important that we support this sector to ensure zoos do not face a welfare crisis this winter due to lack of access to funding," he said.
"This will also safeguard employment and stimulate local economies in recovering by ensuring the continued operation of viable zoo establishments throughout the country."
While Dublin Zoo has warned it may have to close permanently due to the lack of revenue from visitors, Sean McKeown, director of Fota, said his organisation is currently able to fund the running of the park until March 2021.
“However if the current situation prevails with limitations on travelling into early March 2021, and without outside support, Fota Wildlife Park will also see itself faced with the possibility of closure by March 2021," he said.
He said pre-Covid, Fota received an average of 460,000 visitors a year and visitor income amounted to €5m annually. The overall impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant a loss of 20% in visitor numbers and income for 2020.