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Pictured is food prep in the Aquarium of Niagara commissary. (Submitted photo)
Pictured is food prep in the Aquarium of Niagara commissary. (Submitted photo)

Aquarium of Niagara: Local foundation generously supports animal care costs to offset COVID-19 crisis


Mon, Dec 14th 2020 01:05 pm

The Aquarium of Niagara has been awarded a generous grant from the East Hill Foundation to help cover animal care costs in the wake of the venue’s four-month-long closure and revenue loss.

The East Hill Foundation’s gift of $65,000 will fund the aquarium’s animal diet and nutrition program. The diet and nutrition program is a significant contributor to the $250,000 annual price tag associated with non-negotiable animal care costs. Each animal has unique diet and consumption needs that are determined by zoological and veterinary staff. In addition to fresh ingredients such as fruits, vegetables and gelatin compounds, the aquarium purchases more than 50,000 pounds of restaurant-grade frozen fish annually to feed its seals, sea lions, and penguins.

As an organization that derives 80% of its revenue from visitor-driven sources, the Aquarium of Niagara is facing a $1.5 million loss following the COVID-19 closure and reduced capacity requirements. Even though the venue has implemented several cost-cutting measures to reduce expenses, the cost of animal care is constant and cannot be compromised. In addition to diet and nutrition needs, the aquarium spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on things such as water quality analysis, veterinary services, and life support. These costs do not include the salaries of the dedicated zoological staff who deliver high-standards of animal care.

Financial contributions that support specific animal care needs, like this East Hill Foundation grant, help the Aquarium of Niagara mitigate damage caused by the COVID-19 crisis and position the organization for long-term financial stability.

The venue has prioritized other funding needs directly related to animal care and the ongoing operation of the facility, which it is currently seeking funding to support. Individuals, groups, businesses and organizations can explore various opportunities to further support fundraising efforts by contacting the Aquarium of Niagara.

“East Hill Foundation is happy to assist the animals at Aquarium of Niagara to cover the costs of their diet and nutrition during this time of need,” said Kenneth Dulian, executive director of the East Hill Foundation. “We hope other organizations will be motivated to sponsor some of the aquarium’s other essential animal care expenses and help ease the burden of the COVID-19 crisis on this important community institution.”

A press release said, “The Aquarium of Niagara’s animal collection, and its care, are essential to the organization’s mission of inspiring people to make a difference for aquatic life. The living displays, along with mission-driven programming and initiatives, have been catalysts for positive change across the region, and continue to provide families with an outlet for the stressors associated with the global pandemic. With this gift, the East Hill Foundation continues to acknowledge the aquarium’s relevance as a nonprofit cultural attraction, center for education, and conservation-minded organization.”

President and CEO Gary Siddall said, “The importance of community support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been paramount to the continued success and impact of nonprofit organizations. The generosity expressed by the East Hill Foundation through their most recent gift is a testament to the value and trust that they have in the ability of the Aquarium of Niagara to deliver on its mission.”

This award is the latest demonstration of the East Hill Foundation’s dedicated support of the Aquarium of Niagara. In 2018, the foundation awarded the venue with two separate grants. The first enabled the aquarium to create a mobile “touch tank experience.” The second supported the construction of “Penguin Coast,” the $3.6 million renovation of the organization’s penguin exhibit. In 2019, the foundation contributed to the creation of the aquarium’s jellyfish exhibit, “Aliens of the Sea.”

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