© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

'Long haul to recovery' for Orana Park

Tom Flavill
Fataki the Silverback Gorilla
Orana Wildlife Park's 190kg silverback gorilla Fataki costs $800 a week to feed.  Kim Free, Orana Wildlife Park (Supplied)

With $800 a week needed just to feed gorillas, the Covid-19 lockdown closure has cost the Canterbury wildlife park dearly.

Orana Wildlife Park public relations and visitor service manager Nathan Hawke said Orana Wildlife Park had been unable to "hibernate" through the Covid-19 lockdown.

"We can't turn off the lights and go home."

Hawke said the silverback gorillas cost $800 a week just to feed, while the breeding units for Kiwi chicks needed electricity 24 hours a day every day.

The park reopened on May 14.

Hawke said the government wage subsidy had covered 40 percent of expenses for the park, which relied on gate purchases for 95 percent of its income.

Orana Park started a Givealittle page on April 16, which has raised more than $360,000 so far to help with ongoing expenses and operational funding.

Hawke said the support from the community was "absolutely humbling and amazing".

While the winter season held further challenges for the park as visitor numbers usually dropped off, Hawke was "delighted" with the move to Level 2 and the potential for a domestic tourism boost. And it's not just financial.

"Our animals certainly missed the presence of visitors."

Hawke said the park was promoting its annual pass as a way of securing more sustainable revenue.

Orana Wildlife Park remained committed to its breeding programmes such as the Orange-fronted Kakariki, but such important work relied on consistent income.

OWP Kiwi Chick 1
A Kiwi chick at Orana Wildlife Park Supplied