Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Hope Zoo wants to slash admission fees

Published:Friday | July 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMLynford Simpson

Having heard complaints from members of the public about the high admission prices for the Hope Zoo in St Andrew, and wanting to increase the number of persons entering the facility each year, the operators are taking steps to address both situations.

Currently, adults pay $1,500, while children up to age 11 pay $1,000 for admission to the Corporate Area's only zoo. Some persons have shied away from visiting the facility because of the current charges. But the operators of the zoo have pointed out that it takes more than $120 million each year to keep it open. That amount barely covers the cost to feed and otherwise care for the animals, pay staff and maintain the grounds.

Rebecca Harper, general manager at the Hope Zoo, said the Board of the Guardsman Group of Companies which manages the facility as a non-profit, has come up with a novel way to slash prices in half, while doubling the number of persons who visit. This is tied into a component that is designed to enhance environmental and social awareness. The solution being contemplated will leave a shortfall of between $50 million and $60 million dollars which the board hopes corporate Jamaica will fill.

However, Harper has admitted that getting buy-in has been difficult.

"We have done the budget, and we've found that if we can raise roughly $50 million a year in sponsorship, we can actually lower the gate prices by 50 per cent. That would also allow us to encourage social and animal awareness," Harper said while pointing out that there are still persons who visit the zoo who stone the animals.

PLASTIC BOTTLES FOR ENTRY

Harper explained that a decision was made four months ago to reward those persons who are environmentally friendly.

"We will lower the gate price for those who take in 20 plastic bottles," she said. It was originally 10 bottles, but take-up of the offer was overwhelming. The initiative is a collaboration with Recycling Partners of Jamaica, which currently recycles several million of the plastic bottles generated in the country each year. In the four months since the partnership, Harper said the zoo has collected some half-a-million bottles. According to Harper, the aim is to increase that figure to three million bottles, an initiative that will go a far way in reducing the significant amount of plastic and other debris that clog the island's drains and gullies, often resulting in serious flooding.

 

Not be limited

 

Harper is hoping that the initiative, which was endorsed by the PetroCaribe Fund and Guardsman, will not be limited to plastic bottles and that others will come on board. Although her target is ten companies contributing $5 million each, the Hope Zoo board will accept $3 million. For that amount, 3,000 children will be admitted to the zoo at half the current price. The schools have been making use of the discounted prices, but the shortfall has to be made up, Harper stressed.

She was quick to point out that the facility barely breaks even from the current admission fees. Among other things, Guardsman provides security free of charge. Harper said some things have to change as Guardsman can no longer go it alone. She is appealing to all Jamaicans to support the zoo and to prevent it from once again becoming rundown.

She has acknowledged getting some help from Jamaica National, the CHASE Fund, and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund. But she said the support has been sporadic. The general manager said the government has now pitched in and will be offering some funding as of this year. Harper is appealing to all companies involved with either the manufacturing or distribution of plastic bottles in Jamaica to also come forward and support the initiative.