Little Ray’s makes public attraction as pandemic threatens reptile centre

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For the third yr in a row, COVID-19 and associated public well being restrictions have cancelled the centre’s most worthwhile season.

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Jan 22, 2022  •  January 23, 2022  •  3 minute learn  •  Be a part of the dialog Paul 'Little Ray' Goulet of Little Ray's Reptiles, photographed in 2020. Paul ‘Little Ray’ Goulet of Little Ray’s Reptiles, photographed in 2020. Photograph by Jean Levac /Postmedia Information

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For the third winter in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has been placing the squeeze on Little Ray’s Reptiles.

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And, once more, proprietor Paul “Little Ray” Goulet is hoping the general public may also help preserve the favored wildlife centre alive.

“We have now all the time prided ourselves on a robust work ethic and inventive downside fixing and have efficiently run our animal rescue operation for over 26 years,” Goulet wrote on Fb this previous week. “And, but, we’re at a loss and deeply saddened as we battle for the survival of our Canadian firm and are reaching out to you in your donations to assist save our animals and our firm.”

Goulet began the enterprise in 1995 internet hosting academic occasions, give up his full-time job in 1998, and along with his spouse, Sheri, opened Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo in Ottawa in 2000. The enterprise has expanded to incorporate a second zoo in Hamilton and a department that does reveals and exhibits in the USA.

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Little Ray’s was on tempo for a record-setting yr when the pandemic started in March 2020, Goulet stated.

“Then, in 2021, we misplaced January, February and March. We usher in 60 per cent of our annual income in these three months. They’re the one three months the place we make a revenue,” he stated.

“Then comes 2022 and we’re shut down once more.”

Since March 2020, Little Ray’s has been working at a $2.42-million income shortfall, he stated.

“Persons are stunned to see simply how massive this enterprise is, particularly in the event you solely take into consideration the front-facing operation in Ottawa.”

The majority of the corporate’s income comes from festivals and commerce exhibits, however that income dropped from $2.9 million to simply $63,000 final yr, Goulet stated. And, although authorities loans have helped — he’s borrowed $1.6 million in low-risk loans that any enterprise would qualify for — he hasn’t obtained some other particular assist throughout the pandemic. For instance, authorities subsidies for companies that haven’t been in a position to pay their hydro payments gained’t work for Little Ray’s.

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“It’s for firms which might be falling behind on their funds. However we are able to’t fall behind. If we fall behind, animals die.”

Little Ray’s cares for about 900 animals and has about three dozen full-time workers, he stated. Goulet not too long ago moved the Ottawa zoo to Sarsfield. It’s presently closed to the general public due to COVID-19.

However that hasn’t harm the underside line as a lot because the cancellation of festivals and commerce exhibits, he stated.

“Solely as soon as within the greater than 20 years that we’ve been open did we earn extra money from attendance than we did from dwelling birthday events,” Goulet stated. “And folks aren’t doing dwelling birthday events lately. We’re not doing faculties. We’re not doing daycares … .”

The U.S. department has remained worthwhile and the couple have been utilizing it to maintain the Canadian operation.

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“We’ve been shifting cash from the U.S. into Canada, ready for one thing to interrupt, attempting to get us to January, to the place we may management our future somewhat bit extra. However I advised Sheri, ‘We have now to cease. We can not transfer one other greenback from our U.S. firm or we’ll bankrupt it.’ ”

Earlier public appeals have introduced in about $450,000, whereas novelties like Christmas-time “Slothograms” introduced in almost $20,000 extra.

There’s a glimmer of hope. Final week, Premier Doug Ford stated the province would begin to raise restrictions on public gatherings, which Goulet says may imply some limited-capacity festivals might proceed. Goulet posted a ballot on Little Ray’s Fb web page to see if folks would attend.

“We want folks to be trustworthy. Will you go to one in all our indoor festivals if you already know that everybody will likely be totally vaccinated? We have to know earlier than we spend $60,000 to $75,000 attempting to run an occasion with 30 per cent underneath common attendance,” he stated.

“It feels to me like there’s an actual urge for food for folks to get on the market and do one thing with their youngsters.”

Julie Cole and Kiova, the African Grey Parrot, pose for a photo at Little Ray’s Reptiles in Sarsfield. Julie Cole and Kiova, the African Gray Parrot, pose for a photograph at Little Ray’s Reptiles in Sarsfield. Photograph by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

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