WHEN Ballarat North resident Darren Collinson found out just how much money a month it takes to look after the animals at the Ballarat Wildlife Park, he knew in his heart he had to do something to help out.
As the park - along with others across the city - has been forced to close for the second time this year due to stage three restrictions, the full cost of running such a tourist attraction is coming to light, with a monthly spend of near $50,000 just to look after the animals.
It's why Mr Collinson has started up a GoFundMe page where every cent raised will go back to the park.
OTHER BALLARAT COVID-19 NEWS
"I feel exceptionally lucky that my business is able to run as usual, but places like the Wildlife Park have no revenue at all coming in, it's heartbreaking," Mr Collinson said.
"These guys have got the ongoing costs of looking after the beautiful animals and they haven't asked for anything."
Mr Collinson's business Small Dog Design regularly works with businesses across Ballarat including the Regent Cinema and the Wildlife Park.
"While my business was invited to rebuild their website, mostly the Wildlife Park to me is about the kids and I going three or four times a year. We get our annual pass. It's where we go. My daughter is 18, it's still her favourite place on earth," Mr Collinson said.
"I had a good chat with (park owners) Greg and Julia, and they are not the type of people to ask for anything,"
When The Courier spoke to Mr Parker, he said he was overwhelmed to receive such support.
"Darren is a yearly member of ours and looks after our website," he said. "It's completely his initiative, it's fantastic to have such support."
Mr Parker said right now the Wildlife Park was going through an application process to get some of the $94 million rescue package that has been promised for zoos by the federal government. To date, about $22 million has reached zoos.
"Anyone can apply for this, so anything from Seaworld, to the big zoos across the country," Mr Parker said. "We received a small amount of funding but we're in the process of arguing for a bit more.
"While it seems like a big slab of money, it really isn't when you take into account everyone is looking for the same thing.
"Being closed, we are only using electricity for animal welfare, but with such a wide collection of animals from Australia and around the world, they need different climates, so we have to use gas, electricity, filtration systems to keep animals in good health and happiness.
"Then you have the added cost of running tractors, insurance, even tree lopping and things like that.
"We have a dual boiler system to maintain the temperature in the reptile house. We've already spent $26,000 on repair costs. Something like that is far from a capital improvement, it's a life support system for 200 reptiles."
Mr Parker said other expenses included veterinary costs, food, fish, waste disposal, soil and mulch costs and even the cost of water for the penguins and crocodiles and providing the necessary tools to keep animals' psychologically happy.
"It's almost $50,000 a month we are shelling out and when you look at it closely, it's quite an eye opening," he said.
"Some of the things make up the cost - electricity, gas is huge, quantity of water with penguins, crocodile, even the tigers."
Mr Parker said conservation projects were also being affected.
"We had a number of projects - some of the projects we were funding $800 a month for Sumatran Tigers, we were sending money to Kimodo Dragons," he said.
"All were donations that we'd generated to support endangered animals, all those projects have been retracted.
"We'd also been discussing with the Zoos Association of Australia how we could assist in bushfire recovery and supporting all the animals who have suffered during bushfires,
"Zoos are looking at ways of captive breeding programs, habitat revival. We were intending to get more involved in animal rescue and we'd seconded our vet to Bairnsdale. We want to develop resources in that area."
Mr Collinson said he was keen to promote the campaign over the next two weeks, as any more than a month without support could spell financial disaster.
"I've put up a target of $46,000 based on one month," Mr Collinson said. "But if we get $5000 or $10,000 that's great too, anything that can help. Every cent will go to the park.
"I've only had it up a day and we've already got more than $1800. I've only just started to reach out and get some businesses and some friends who have a reach on social media."
Ongoing, Mr Parker said any Ballarat business could show their support to the park by taking out an animal sponsorship or the public could help by taking out a yearly membership.
"Taking out the yearly membership is a wonderful way to support us and we are so grateful to our members, they are absolutely vital to our future," Mr Parker said.
"Any money we can get from the sponsorship program, yearly members, we are putting it straight back into the animals."
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.