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Call for Belfast Zoo to close down - what do you think?

Published 10/11/2015

Some of the attractions at Belfast Zoo
Some of the attractions at Belfast Zoo
Some of the attractions at Belfast Zoo
Some of the attractions at Belfast Zoo
Californian sea lions have been at Belfast Zoo for 60 years
One of the new prairie dog pups at Belfast Zoo peers out of a hole behind an adult yesterday
Visitors to Belfast Zoo yesterday marvel at the Game Of Thrones-themed animatronic dragon
The baby sea lion at Belfast Zoo
A giraffe gets too close for comfort for one child at Belfast Zoo
One of Belfast Zoo’s gentoo penguin chicks with its mum

When was the last time you visited Belfast Zoo?

Figures today have prompted questions over the future of Northern Ireland's only zoo as it is losing £865,000 a year.

The Zoo's 55 acre site opened in 1934 and is currently home to more than 1,000 animals and 150 species.

<< Opinion has been split over the future of the Zoo - have your say in our poll below >>

Belfast City Council revealed that the running costs of the zoo are £2.7million per year and that it generates an income of £1.9million.

The current operating deficit is £865,000 - this equals almost £17,000 a week.

However UUP councillor Chris McGimpsey disputed the Council's figures stating that the losses were in fact much higher and that it was costing the ratepayer £40,000 per week.

Speaking on BBC Talkback he described the zoo as a "Victorian animal peep show".

He said: "I don't go very often because I always feel saddened once I leave.

"My difficulty with the zoo is not just that you lose interest, it's what you have up there is an Victorian animal peep show which has been on the Bellevue hill for over 100 years and we keep it going because we don't know what else to do with it.

He added: "It doesn't make financial sense but for me it is also ethically wrong.

"There is a significant financial problem, a quarter of a million people visited and we still lose 40,000 a week.

"When you ask somebody from City Council to explain the finances no-one is ever available.

"I don't think its normal for zoos to lose that amount of money. Our zoo is a hole in the bucket and we cannot continue to keep pouring water in it.

"It's not fair on the ratepayers of Belfast.

"Why should the ratepayers of Belfast throw £40,000 a week in the Lagan?"

Meanwhile, Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister said the key to overcoming the losses was to invest more in it.

She said: "What we should actually focus on is that we are investing in an attraction that is one of the top five visited attractions in Northern Ireland.

"That's why we need to talk about we need to have a more commercially broad attraction, do we need to get external funding, or research."

She added: "I would see it not as a loss but as an investment.

"The discussion needs to be more around what can we do to offset this money how we can get funding from external bodies for things like research development and education."

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