The Moreton Bay Region's animal attractions and sanctuaries have been doing it tough since the COVID-19 restrictions forced the closure of their doors to the public.
But they are hanging in there, so we can soon enjoy some much-needed wildlife and farm experiences.
We recently checked in with some operators to see how they were faring, and when they thought they could reopen or resume normal activities.
Owners Katrina and David White say when they reopen, visiting is the best way the community can support them. This is most likely to happen with the easing of restrictions during stage three (July 2020).
“It’s not financially worth opening for 20 people. It takes a team of people, hours of work to make the farm look immaculate and ready to go and we wouldn't offer a compromised product. We have applied for an exception but hold little hope of approval,” Katrina says.
“What we would like is the support of the community when we reopen, coming back to the farm and bringing their friends and family,” Katrina adds. “Sharing our social media and talking about us to friends and family is the best help we could ask for.”
They have two new paint pinto ponies they can’t wait for the community to meet when they reopen. The ponies will be available for pony rides.
“I think that’s something the community really wants,” Katrina says.
In the meantime, they are keeping their heads above water … just.
“We don’t have an income, we are technically unemployed, we have not received any government assistance, we’re still waiting for Job Keeper to come through,” Katrina says.
“Our expenses are exactly the same, we can’t pack up our animals away in the garage like a jumping castle business. We still have to pay for feed and we had to get a vet out last night, so that’s another $1000.”
White Ridge Farm has been open for about four years and is home to llamas, alpacas, horses, goats, sheep, lambs, chickens, ducks, a cow and even a camel.
The farm, located just 5 minutes north of Caboolture offers people of all ages the opportunity to visit and interact with friendly and sweet-natured animals. For updates, head to the Facebook page.
Owner Kelly Prisk is waiting for a Government confirmation, but hopes she can reopen in late May to 10 people at a time.
The shutdown has been difficult, but not as tough as it has for others with more animals and expenses.
“The only way we get money is from people visiting. Luckily, we don’t have a lot of expenses,” Kelly says. “It costs $30 a day to feed the animals, but it’s not too bad.”
Kelly had initiated a sponsor-a-deer initiative prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result six of her 15 deer are funded by community members.
“That’s been enough to cover everybody. Everyone got food – not fresh fruit and vegetables - but they got their hay,” she says.
It will be challenging to reopen to small groups as it is difficult to make reservations for a certain period of time – some visitors stay longer than others – but Kelly says she will make it work.
Head to the Facebook page for details including opening dates and times, and how to book.
Managing director Lindsay Rooke says the farm will reopen sometime during stage two or three of the restrictions.
Like other farms and wildlife attractions in the region, they have been hit hard. Lindsay says they were able to minimise certain labour costs, access payments to Work Keeper for long-term casual workers and save money to feed their animals
The Trevena Glen farm is home to more than 50 animals, including 17 horses.
They have been able to continue running their riding school, as it is one-on-one and social distancing was maintained. In addition, the farm was able to welcome several guests who either paid or volunteered to help feed and care for the farm animals.
“That’s one way the community has been supporting us. Anyone who’s able to help with feeding and caring for the animals can do that,” he says.
Trevena Glen Farm is situated on 16 acres of land in the foothills of the D’Aguilar Range, just a 10-minute drive from Samford Village.
Ben Bawden has been running his mobile wildlife experience company for 10 years, six from Wamuran, and planned this year to open a permanent attraction at the site.
The COVID-19 shutdown and subsequent cancellation of wildlife experiences at community events and schools, and the shutdown of the film and television industry have reduced Ben’s income to zero. This means his plans have been shelved, perhaps for a year.
Fortunately, payments from Job Keeper allowed him to keep his two employees, but he still has to come up with the cash to feed 600 animals.
That's where the group jumped into action, setting up a Go Fund Me page has seen the community contribute around $2500 to go towards feeding the animals.
“It has kept me going to push further to get what we need to open to the public properly,” he says. “It reinforces the fact that people want an attraction like this, especially in their region.”
He's keen to provide the region with an accessible native and exotic wildlife experience for locals and tourists.
But he says the launch is unlikely to happen before next year's Easter, now. He is optimistic he would be able to do so sooner with the help of the Council and the State Government.
There are 600 animals on the property, ranging from native birds to reptile and mammals, to monkeys, snakes iguanas, alligators and crocodiles.
For updates, head to the Facebook page
Although this much-loved attraction has been closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, volunteers led by Ray and Delphine Archer have continued the butterfly breeding programme to ensure that when it reopens there is plenty on hand for much-needed natural therapy.
The centre, established nearly three years ago by the couple, is a refuge for 19 varieties including the endangered blue butterfly Ulysses.
Ray says for every 100 eggs a butterfly lays in the wild, only two will survive. But in the laboratory, they have an 80 per cent success rate thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteers.
The centre will most likely reopen in July when the third stage of easing restrictions commences and more volunteers will be on-site to ensure that it is a healthy environment for everyone.
The Butterfly House is located at Bongaree on Bribie Island, the centre is a not-for-profit community of passionate volunteers dedicated to increasing the butterfly population on Bribie Island.
When they reopen soon, kids and adults alike will be able to take a guided tour of the facility by the volunteers, you can step into the butterfly haven and interact with them in their natural environment, even getting to see the breeding lab! If you’re lucky enough, a butterfly may even land on you to create that picture-perfect moment.
For updates, head to the Facebook page
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