The Dolphin Marine Conservation Park in Coffs Harbour, located on the New South Wales (NSW) coast, is facing financial difficulties that might result in the relocation of its oldest captive Australian sea lion, Ellie, and the dolphins that reside there.
The park, which is situated halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, entered voluntary administration due to a lack of funding. It is one of only two sea-life centers in the country that take in and provide treatment for sick and injured dolphins. Additionally, it is home to the largest population of endangered Australian sea lions worldwide, including 29-year-old Ellie.
According to Terry Goodall, the managing director of the park, they have been relying solely on donations for the past three years. They have been rejected for grants by all levels of government, making it a continuous struggle to keep the park afloat. The combination of unfavorable weather conditions and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on their already expensive operation. Despite owning the property, the park experiences cash flow problems.
The Dolphin Marine Conservation Park is the only facility authorized to treat and rehabilitate sick and injured sea life between Taronga and Sea World. It was originally opened by Terry Goodall’s uncle Hector 53 years ago. If the park is forced to close, the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia will re-home the animals.
In the past, animal conservationists have advocated for the relocation of the animals residing in the Coffs Harbour center to a place where they don’t have to perform for tourists. Collaborative efforts have been made between the marine park and two animal welfare organizations to enhance the welfare of the park’s three bottlenose dolphins, including the possibility of relocating them to a sea sanctuary.
Terry Goodall assures that the animals will receive proper care if they have to be moved. However, the closure of the park could result in Coffs Harbour losing an estimated $20 million per year in tourism revenue.
To address the financial crisis, a major fundraising campaign has been initiated to support the park and its endangered residents. Terry Goodall is currently in talks with local businesses to secure financial contributions. He emphasizes the need for long-term and ongoing support to sustain the park’s operations.
The fate of the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park and its beloved animals hangs in the balance as the community rallies together to save this cherished institution.