Conservation Funding: Pounds, Shillings and Sense?

Dear Friends

See if you can make sense of this? 

London Zoo’s new ‘Gorilla Kingdom’ cost just over £5 million to create.  In my view it’s a rather depressing spectacle – the patch of grass surrounded by hot wires (electrical barrier), the moat with some naked and truncated trees and a small waterfall (not available to the gorillas).  Inside, the gorilla area is enclosed on two sides by glass walls so the public can get (very) up close and personal.  London Zoo’s slogan is ‘Living Conservation’ and, as part of the exhibit, you are able to make a donation of £1 (receive a badge) and you can then nominate where the net proceeds of your donation (90 pence) will go.  For example, to a gorilla project director in the wild, a student in the wild, a gorilla researcher in the wild – you get the idea.  According to the sign, since the enclosure was opened in March 2007, a total of £5,300 has been donated.  Now, given that over the same period, approximately 600,000 people have visited the Zoo, and that this, according to the Zoo’s own publicity, is largely stimulated by the new Gorilla Kingdom, and that this exhibit is obviously there to generate funds for conservation, see what you make of the following:

To recover the £5 million capital development cost of the enclosure at a rate of £681 (net average) a month, will take approximately 611 years.  Or to put it another way, if circa 600,000 people have been into the Zoo since March, the average donation per visitor to gorillas is just 0.9 of 1 pence……  and, of course, this does not begin to address the maintenance costs, keeper costs, feeding costs … the list goes on. 

Now, it may just be me. I may have missed something fundamentally important here and, of course, the Zoo will claim that they are not only raising funds but educating.  But in terms of sheer hard cash being generated for conservation, the new Gorilla Kingdom is like the Emperor’s new clothes – lacking substance.

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