21 June, 2011 7:06PM ACST
By Noah Schultz-Byard (Cross Media Reporter)
It has been revealed today the Adelaide Zoo is $24 million in debt and the State Government has had to step in and assist the institution financially.
The Minister for Environment and Conservation, Paul Caica, announced in parliament today the government had given Zoos SA $2 million to help see it through 2011/12, which sparked fears the zoo may close.
Professor Chris West, CEO of Zoos SA, was quick to quell any worries and assure people there are no job cuts planned and the zoo will be staying open.
"Clearly it's a serious situation... but we are confident that we can work this through."
Prof West says economic burdens outside of the zoo's control are to blame for the financial hardship, but admitted a lack of sponsors for the prize exhibit, pandas Wang Wang and Funi, was adding to the difficulty.
"The root cause is mainly because of the Global Financial Crisis and the fact that we didn't achieve as much corporate sponsorship as we planned to."
Zoos SA is an independent conservation charity but Mr West acknowledges the connection between his organisation and the State Government.
According to Prof West, a mutually beneficial relationship has grown between the zoo and government, which has encouraged conservation and education within the community.
"But in simple tourism and financial terms," he said, "we also make a very large contribution.
"Last year the pandas made a contribution of nearly $60 million to the economy of the state and Zoos SA as a whole made a contribution of about $116 million."
Minster Caica was less enthusiastic about the overall contribution the panda's had made to the operational costs of the Adelaide Zoo.
"The government has recently been informed that while the pandas have indeed attracted many more people through the gates, including from interstate and overseas, and revenues have increased in the form of sponsorships, memberships and events, these revenues have not been able to match the increase in the zoo's operating expenses," he said.
The State Government is currently involved in a review of the economic management of the Adelaide Zoo, that includes both the zoo's board and management teams.
Prof West says he welcomes the review, the zoo is safe, employees will keep their jobs and the pandas are staying put.
"The last thing that we'd ever plan to do would be to send the pandas back to China."