The World of Birds, one of Hout Bay’s top tourist attractions, has been left teetering on a shaky perch by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Management at the famous bird sanctuary already started putting plans in place to cope before the lockdown started, but with no income and mounting expenses things are looking bleak.
Hendrik Louw, the sanctuary’s general manager, said they had anticipated the lockdown a few days before President Cyril Ramaphosa’s official announcement and that had given them a chance to prepare.
“We had several staff meetings leading up to this point and already had staff work four days a week to limit contact with each other.”
Their next objective was to secure animal feed for the duration of the lockdown.
Mr Louw said that after consulting their suppliers they had managed to get enough food for four weeks, including 5.5 tons of grain, one ton of lucerne and straw,
2.5 tons of chicken, 500kg of fish and two tons of apples.
Extra space was needed to store the additional food.
“We put together a core team of staff to be on duty daily to care for birds and animals in our sanctuary as well as for those that were still dropped off daily,” Mr Louw said.
Fifteen of the 40 employees were on duty daily at the facility, observing strict hygiene and physical distancing measures, he said.
However, with the sanctuary closed while staff continue to work, World of Birds is feeling the strain of Covid-19.
“With no income and as you can imagine expenses are still there like water, electricity, staff wages, feed and general maintenance, which does not change,” Mr Louw said.
Staff expenses at the facility have been cut to R500 000 a month, but the sanctuary is still battling to stay afloat.
“We are currently drawing on our last reserves and are looking at accessing a bond as a last resort. Once the country and the world returns to the new normal, we will continue and improve on general hygiene within the park.”
In 2017, the avian flu outbreak in the Western Cape had already prepared management and staff for the worst, he said.
“It taught us a lot about bio security and since that outbreak, we followed strict bio security protocol within the sanctuary.”
World of Birds had also started working closely with the World Zoo Association and Pan African Zoo Association, he said.
“This has been a testing time for us all, there is not one person that can say they have not been changed in some way or form by this invisible threat. Yet we stay strong, believe in a greater power and trust we will all get through this stronger. I would like to thank all the supporters that have been in contact and those that have helped in any way they could,” Mr Louw said.