UNIMAGINABLE: Stephanie Robinson gives a presentation on the lions at Darling Downs Zoo, which has now been closed to the public. Photo Samantha O'Neil
UNIMAGINABLE: Stephanie Robinson gives a presentation on the lions at Darling Downs Zoo, which has now been closed to the public. Photo Samantha O'Neil

Unimaginable loss devastates Darling Downs Zoo

UNLIKE other small businesses, for Steve Robinson and the family-owned Darling Downs Zoo, 'hibernating' is not an option during coronavirus.

When the zoo was mandated to closed doors, Mr Robinson made efforts to cut his budget in half and let go of beloved staff members, but was still looking at thousands of dollars in monthly upkeep to keep animals safe.

"Even though we slashed everything we can to the bone, it still takes $60,000 a month to run," he said.

"We have things like food, labour and specialised keepers we can't afford to lose because they have that sort of connection, and then a lot of other things like power bills, which are exorbitant, but we need those because we have baby monkey and reptiles that need heating," he said.

Letting go of front-of-house staff had been a particularly heartbreaking decision.

"Some of them have been with us for seven to eight years," Mr Robinson said.

"We're a small zoo but we all work as a team, as a family, and now we're missing a few members of our family."

It had left Mr Robinson, who said he didn't have a personal bank account because all money went into the zoo, unsure of how long he could hold out financially.

"The uncertainty of not knowing when it's going to end makes it difficult," he said.

"How can you know how to budget for three months, six months or until the end of the year.

"You can imagine and prepare for a flood and fire, even war, but the whole world got wrecked without a single shot being fired."

With his hopes for employees laying on federal assistance payments like JobKeeper allowance, Mr Robinson just hoped the government could keep them alive until time came to reopen.

"I wrote to David Littleproud and asked him to consider us as under animal welfare," he said.

"We need to be here for when people are allowed to go out and want to go somewhere isolated, outdoors and natural.

"But we need to ensure we still exist when that day comes."

Mr Robinson had set up a GoFundMe in the interim, which could be accessed through Facebook Page, Darling Downs Zoo.

Alternatively, donations could be made via their email at admin@darlingdownszoo.com.au


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