Snakes Downunder owner Ian Jenkins with MP Stephen Bennett.
Snakes Downunder owner Ian Jenkins with MP Stephen Bennett. Jodie DixonBIT010716SNAKES

Zoo's fears for animals' future as distancing costs income

CHILDERS reptile park and zoo Snakes Downunder has recently added a number of new animals to its collection, including meerkats, a Komodo dragon and the Lumholtz's tree kangaroo.

But that was before the global coronavirus pandemic created a need for social distancing, which put a halt to their operations.

Zoo owner Ian Jenkins said he feared for the welfare of his animals, as well as the hundreds, if not thousands of animals across the country because of a sudden lack of income.

"The income for our industry has stopped, however the expenditure, including food, water, veterinary services, repair and maintenance, power for heating, lighting, pumping et cetera to maintain the health and wellbeing of our animals has not," he said.

"In the event of closure, animals, including exotics, can usually be transferred to other facilities, however it is unlikely that this will occur now because each facility will be struggling to support its own animals.

"Zoos in other parts of the world are seriously considering euthanasia and are actively starting to list which animals should go first."

Mr Jenkins said starvation was a cruel possibility for animals in captivity.

"This is a horrific prospect, and one our industry is extremely reluctant to consider, but some facilities started talking about it being a real possibility weeks ago rather than having animals starve," he said.

Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett levelled blame at state Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner as he called for government support.

"The situation is becoming more desperate by the hour for this small business, and many others across the state, and minister Mark Furner is doing nothing" Mr Bennett said.

"Without customers coming through their doors, how are they expected to keep going?

"I know the owners and they are passionate about their animals and the position the closures are putting them in is devastating."

Mr Bennett called on the Palaszczuk Government to take urgent action.

"Urgent assistance and support is needed to avoid this preventable disaster," he said.

Mr Furner responded to Mr Bennett's claims, saying the state cared about the welfare on animals in the state's zoos.

"The welfare of animals in Queensland businesses licensed to exhibit is an important priority for the industry and the Queensland Government," he said.

"Some of these businesses are iconic in Queensland and on the global stage, and hold a special place in the hearts of Queenslanders and visitors alike.

"The needs of these businesses have been discussed across all levels of government, and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries officers have held ongoing talks with industry representatives to determine needs and possible avenues of support."

Mr Furner said Biosecurity Queensland would continue to work closely with the industry, including the Zoo and Aquarium Association, to provide them with up-to-date information on COVID-19 and the assistance available.

"The Queensland Government is continually assessing its response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and continues to work closely with the Federal Government to explore assistance measures for Queensland businesses and workers," he said.