Saint John — The Cherry Brook Zoo has plans to reinvent itself as a hunting lodge thanks to an untimely cut in funding by Saint John City Council as well as a major investment from a foreign consortium.
Council voted 20:18 to cut funding to the zoo for the 2017 budget, limiting their contribution to a few bags of bird seed and four scratching posts. However, zoo officials immediately received notification that an American hunting group, led by Donnie Nugent, brother of famed American rock musician Ted Nugent, were interested in purchasing the zoo outright and converting it into a high-end hunting retreat.
Cherry Brook Zoo director of marketing Seymour Katz revealed the renewed interest in the zoo during an impromptu press conference outside council chambers immediately after the vote. “We’re excited!” said Katz. “We’ll get the investment we need to stay open and will no longer rely on government funding.”
However, not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea. Bjorn Frei, head of the local chapter of People Including The Animals, or PITA, believes that transforming the zoo into a hunting lodge is a mistake. “Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the fact that they want to release the animals,” said Frei. “It’s really just the killing them part that we strongly disagree with.”
Katz welcomes the opportunity for investors to keep the zoo open in any form. “From what I understand, this group has a deep love and appreciation for all animals. That’s why they kill them — because they have so much respect.”
There is still no firm date on when the zoo will be converted, but Katz says the group is hoping to be open to tourists by late spring.
“I know that they bought some animals from Ringling Bros. Circus that they plan on bringing up here. It will be a great boost for the city. Many businesses will thrive because of this: Army Surplus, butchers and taxidermists are just a few that will benefit.”
Katz hopes the public will welcome the investors and keep an open mind about the new venture. To those opposed to hunting the animals, Katz suggests, “We need to change the way zoos operate and evolve as an organization. It’s the circle of life. They even wrote a song about it.”