Zion Wildlife Park tours face delay

By Imran Ali of the Northern Advocate -
Craig Busch  - the 'Lion Man' - at the Zion Wildlife Park, which receivers say has had some interest over sale of the land and animals. Photo / APN
Craig Busch - the 'Lion Man' - at the Zion Wildlife Park, which receivers say has had some interest over sale of the land and animals. Photo / APN

People wanting to tour financially troubled Zion Wildlife Gardens near Whangarei face delays, despite assurances it is business as usual at the park.

Receiver PricewaterhouseCoopers is keeping mum on the future of the park and the fate of its big cats while talks with interested parties continue.

It's understood receivers are running pre-booked tours with certain conditions, three months after the park ran into financial trouble.

Those ringing the park to make bookings are encountering a recorded telephone message saying Zion is closed for public tours while receivers assess the situation.

The park's Gray Rd office is not being manned.

It's understood limited staff are looking after the animals and day- to-day operations.

Colin McCloy of PwC said tours did require pre-booking for now.

"The length of time between booking and a tour proceeding is dependent upon the availability of appropriate resources and other planned tours,'' Mr McCloy said.

"The office area is manned on an as-required basis and the website and phone lines are monitored.''

On the park's future, he said the receivers would continue to talk to several interested parties but he did not elaborate further, saying discussions were confidential.

"In the interim, Zion is open for visitors,'' he said.

Mr McCloy would not comment on how far the receivers were from making a decision on the park's future.

The 36 animals housed at the facility continue to be fed from meat supplied by the receivers, unlike before the park went into receivership when local farmers helped supply food.

Former Lion Man Craig Busch has declared his interest to buy back the park he was sacked from by his mother and current operator Patricia Busch.

Zion is understood to be in the red by about $2million and Mrs Busch has successfully obtained an injunction from the High Court, preventing the receivers from interfering with more than 36 animals at the facility.

Mrs Busch took over the park from Mr Busch _ who shot to international stardom in the hit TV programme The Lion Man _ after he got into financial difficulty in 2006

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