Dolphin Marine Conservation Park

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Dolphin Marine Conservation Park

Freshwater Turtles Coffs Harbour

LIVE streams take us Australia – wide!

Despite the shutdown forced by COVID-19, local icon, Dolphin Marine Conservation Park (DMCP) quickly adapted using social media to share their animals
and conservation messages with their community with surprising results.

Since 4th April, the park has shared 11 live streams and pre-recorded videos featuring the Marine Care Team and their animals on Facebook. Managing
Director, Terry Goodall, said he has been blown away by the response.

“Nearly 200,000 people from across Australia have watched and interacted with our videos, including some people in America,” he said. “Our team is
both shocked and delighted. Before the shutdown, we welcomed around 60,000 visitors to our park each year and now we have more than doubled our
virtual visitors in just four weeks. The success has opened our eyes to a whole new communication medium with online audiences, expanded our community
and raised our profile across Australia.”

However, keeping engaged with the community has not been easy. As a direct result of COVID-19, DMCP had to stand down 47 staff and reduce hours. But,
despite receiving no visitor income, they have continued to care for the marine mammals and other animals in their care.

The dedicated Marine Care Team volunteered to make the videos. Tani Karaka, a Marine Carer at the park fortwo and a half years and video enthusiast
has been a key driver of the program. “We’re at the Park every day caring for our animals, feeding them and looking after their welfare and making
sure they receive vital enrichment so we thought why not share this with everyone while they’re at home in isolation and bring some joy to their
day,” she said.

The live streams, in particular, have been very well supported averaging over 18,000 viewers for each event. The most popular live stream so far has
been with Plugga, the three-flippered Green Sea Turtle who was rescued many years ago after being attacked by a predator. Gemma, Plugga’s carer,
tried her best to encourage the 90kg turtle to swim closer to the camera but Plugga was more interested in sleeping which made amusing viewing
for everyone. Despite being camera shy, Plugga’s live stream attracted nearly 25,000 viewers. Refusing to be discouraged, after the live stream
the marine team uploaded a short video of Plugga swimming with Gemma which attracted a further 7,500 viewers.

Mr Goodall said that the team had invested a lot of time and effort into the live streams and videos, planning and writing the scripts, filming and
editing and connecting to the Facebook and Instagram communities to attract viewers. “It has been a coordinated team approach which has exceeded
all our expectations and we are now looking at how we can use new technology to continue to share our animals and conservation messages with a
much wider audience into the future,” added Mr Goodall.

 

Mr. Goodall said that recent times have been incredibly stressful for everyone, especially in the past seven weeks.

“Before the global pandemic, we endured a long drought, horrific bushfires and then floods. Summer holidays and Easter are normally our busiest times.
But this year people stayed home and visitors to the Coffs Coast, and our park, decreased by 40%. This has been an enormous challenge for our team.
Along with many others on the mid-north coast, our organisation is suffering. Our financial capacity to continue the care for our beautiful animals
is being tested.”

This week’s announcement by the Government to fund zoos, wildlife parks, sanctuaries and aquariums to the tune of $94.6M is a step welcomed by the
marine park.

“Fortunately, we will receive some help from the Government JobKeeper program. And the Government funding announced yesterday is a lifeline for DMCP
and many other animal care organisations.

It costs DMCP over $20,000 a week to care for our animals. This covers a skeleton marine care team, food, medical and utility charges. Our animals
eat 63 kg of fish every day! What’s more, unlike organisations that care for land-based animals, DMCP incurs extra costs to maintain our saltwater
quality. The water is monitored and tested several times a day.

We are still closed to visitors but our animal welfare continues. However, with no visitors, we’re not sure how much longer we could survive without
Government assistance.”

However, the good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. With Government restrictions easing, domestic tourism is likely to re-open
soon. Once borders re-open, people will be keen to get out of their homes and travel again.

Mr Goodall is optimistic. “The Coffs Coast is a stunning place to enjoy the fresh coastal air. We’re an outdoor park and with our new measures for
physical distancing and upgraded hygiene regimes, we are hoping people will come and visit in person as soon as they are able. In the meantime,
people can check in to our Facebook page and watch our library of videos and keep up to date with new content coming soon,” he said.

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