Durban: bird park to close after 25 years

2009-07-23 00:00

DURBAN’S iconic uMgeni River Bird Park will close its doors at the end of August, leaving 35 people unemployed and marking the end of a place known for its spectacular bird species.

The park’s owners, Tsogo Sun Gaming, decided to close the park because it is running at an annual loss of R2,5 million.

The park, which opened in April 1984, houses over 3 000 exotic and indigenous birds, including two highly endangered indigenous birds, the Cape Parrot and the Southern Ground Hornbill.

In a media statement, Thabo Mosololi, director of finance for Tsogo Sun Gaming, said: “Sadly, the bird park has not been sustainable as a tourist attraction due to its location and efforts to move it have been unsuccessful.”

He said the primary focus is the relocation of the birds to new homes and the welfare of staff.

“We deeply regret the closure of the uMgeni River Bird Park, but it has become unavoidable in light of the unsustainable losses incurred at this operation,” he said.

The birds will be moved to Monte Casino, uMgeni River’s sister bird park in Gauteng.

Public relations officer Rekha Naidoo, who has worked there for 19 years, said the staff are shocked by the decision, but they are preparing for the closure.

“Monte Casino is preparing for the birds. They are building new cages and we are hoping to move some of the birds as soon as possible.”

A new breeding facility is also being built. “As soon as the park closes, we will start the move, which is expected to be complete only in February next year. Some staff will remain to help with the relocation,” Naidoo said.

The closure is an emotional issue for staff.

“We are like a family. Everyone is heartbroken. We are all trying to be positive, but it is very difficult. The mood is very sombre here,” she said.

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