With no opening day in sight, Granby Zoo struggling as feeding costs pile up

The effects of COVID-19 on the human population are obvious, as the number of infected rises, jobs are lost and many people complain of anxiety. But Quebec's captive animals aren't having an easy time during the crisis either.

“Right now, we're going through a tough time, of course,” said Granby Zoo CEO Paul Gosselin.

While normally the zoo would be open and busy during this time of year, the gates have remained shut due to the province's ban on gatherings. Gosselin said revenue is now down to zero but the animals inside still need up to $1 million worth of food per year.

“A lion eats about 10 pounds of meat a day,” said zookeeper Francis Lavigne. “That's a lot.”

Granby Zoo is one of the three largest in Canada but while zoos in Calgary and Toronto are funded by the cities, Granby is a non-profit. To fund itself, the zoo has started a fundraising campaign.

“It's to ask people just to help us with our fixed costs right now,” said Gosselin. “Taking care of animals, feeding them, medical care, zoo care.”

The pandemic has also put off the projected May re-opening of the Biodome, which has been undergoing a $28 million renovation. Officials said 500 animals still need to be moved back into the Biodome, but don't think it will re-open until at least the fall.

Gosselin said he still hopes to re-open by July but didn't rule out staying closed all summer. The zoo has a payroll of about $14 million per year and while federal subsidies have helped cover some of that, other overhead costs are still piling up.

“That would be a catastrophe for our financials,” he said. 

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