Bringing pandas to the capital would be “playing with fire”, Wellington Zoo’s chief executive says.
Official documents reveal chief executive Karen Fifield suggested snow leopards were a safer option after a meeting with the chief executive at Taronga Zoo in Sydney left her uncomfortable with acquiring pandas. …
Fifield, in an email in March to Kaine Thompson, manager of the Wellington City Council’s chief executive office, wrote that her meeting in Sydney had resulted in a conversation she didn’t really want to hear.
“It was not a good story at all – without central government committing to lots of the ongoing costs, I think I am playing with fire with the zoo’s future if we proceed.”
She said Taronga was not pushing ahead with getting pandas because of the financial risk beyond the first 18 months.
“They did their own feasibility study and talked to all the US zoos which hold giant pandas. In fact San Diego Zoo tried to give theirs back to China due to ever-increasing costs, but China refused to take them,” she wrote.
“Taronga predicts [capital expense] of $23m plus … and they predict they would be $2m per annum in the red for [operating expense] beyond 18 months.”
The Council should listen to the zoo chief executive and drop the idea.