St Lucia expects the Union Zoo redevelopment project will be completed and operational in time for the island’s 41st anniversary of independence on Feb. 22. That’s according to Ezechiel Joseph, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Natural Resources.
The project will be the state-of-the-art Wildlife Conservation and Education Centre which will generate significant revenue from tourism.
The St Lucia government received grant funding of around US$1.8 million for the project from the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots. In 2018, controversy surrounded the project when it was reported in British daily newspaper ‘The Guardian’ that the head of the ACTP had multiple criminal convictions, including a five-year jail sentence for hostage taking, extortion and attempted fraud in 1996.
The article stated that in 2009 the head of the ACTP was sentenced to 20 months in prison for seven cases of fraud. In one incident, he kidnapped two men and threatened to cut their fingers off unless they paid a large sum of money. When the story broke, Joseph gave assurances that St Lucia has one of the most rigorous vetting processes for investors.
The ACTP has agreements with St Vincent, Dominica, Brazil and Australia besides St Lucia to import parrots. Joseph said once the project is completed, it will be a unique site in the region. “It is going to have an aviary where we will have animals live, not in captivity but live; so that will be the first of its kind in the region and ACTP is the one funding it,” he said.
The facility which replaces the union zoo will also include a coffee shop and a gift shop that will sell handcraft products produced by locals.