Zoo CEO: Panda project doesn’t bear thinking about

Wellington Zoo would be ‘playing with fire’ if it pandered to the Prime Minister’s desire to house two giant pandas its CEO has warned.

“Correspondence released to Labour under the Official Information Act reveals zoo boss Karen Fifield raised alarm bells about the costs of acquiring the bears following a conversation with her counterpart at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo,” Labour’s Animal Welfare spokesperson Trevor Mallard says.


“In an email to a member of the Mayor’s staff Ms Fifield says a feasibility study of all US zoos which have giant pandas showed there were huge financial risks.

“She notes San Diego tried to return theirs because of ‘ever increasing costs’, but China refused to take them back.

“Even cute and cuddly baby pandas didn’t help lift visitor numbers.

“It has been estimated costs to keep the pandas could be between $25 million and $48 million over 10 years, and Ms Fifield makes it very clear Wellington would be ‘playing with fire’ if it proceeded with the proposal.

“The correspondence also makes it very clear that the pandas have become John Key’s pet project now that he’s been prohibited from pulling pony tails, despite reservations from his Chief of Staff.

“Everyone likes pandas, but if having them comes at such a huge cost, then head should win out over heart,” Trevor Mallard says.