Jamaica Zoo seeks funds to feed animals
Less than two weeks after been ordered closed, Jamaica Zoo has turned to the public to assist with funds to, among other things, feed and care for its animals.
The Lacovia, St Elizabeth-based zoo was ordered closed by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on June 1, after a video surfaced online, showing a worker taunting a lion until his finger was bitten.
"We don't know how long it going last so we have to try and put ourselves in a position to make sure we can maintain some of our staff that will be here maintaining the animals, cleaning the enclosures, feeding them and cleaning up the place and stuff like that," the zoo's proprietor, Paul Fearon, said.
He said that funds contributed to Jamaica Zoo will be used to "feed the animals, to pay light bill and water."
Fearon, said that the abrupt closure of the facility has led to economic upheaval at the facility and has resulted in job losses. He described the directive of closure by NEPA as heartless and ruthless.
"They didn't even consider the fact that it is a product of Jamaica, and in these hard times, to even consider the staff that I have laid off," Fearon said.
"I have laid off over 30 staff and they don't even consider how the animals are going to be maintained -- how them a guh get feeding -- how me a guh pay the staff that I am keeping."
The state agency explained that Jamaica Zoo breached its environmental permit and instructed the facility to cease its services until it complies with the conditions outlined in the notice.
"I'm shut down right now, but I don't know if I'm shut down for good. I don't know if it's temporary or not, I don't know what NEPA going to do, NEPA can always find a fault," Fearon said.
The Jamaica Zoo CEO did not disclose the amount of monies raised since his appeal for donations started, but indicates that he has garnered the support of some Jamaicans.
"We coming off a two-year period of lockdown of COVID-19 and just when we started picking up, and clearing up bills from that two-year period, the incident with the lion biting the employee happened, and we had to close down after that. So we don't know how long it is [the order of closure] going last so we have to try put ourselves in a position to make sure we can maintain some of our staff that will be here maintaining the animals, clearing the enclosure and feeding them," Fearon told THE STAR.
As the zoo operator comes to terms with the closure of the zoo, he shared that he has been receiving calls daily from eager patrons questioning the reopening of the attraction.
"I don't think I have a bad reputation because if you look at the comments on Facebook, persons are upset with the agency and asking why they close the zoo and I don't think I would have a bad reputation. So I don't think bouncing back will be such a hard thing to do based on the general public feedback," Fearon said.
Jamaica Zoo started operations in May 23, 2010 fueled by the passion Fearon has for animals and wildlife. The zoo is home to 132 animals, whose enclosures are stretched over more than 100 acres of land.