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Saturday, September 18, 2010

El Vergel Safari Park closes after 33 years

FALLING NUMBERS of visitors and competition from more modern attractions have forced the closure of El Vergel Safari Park after 33 years.
A trickle of cars arrived last Friday only to find gates were closed and be turned away from the once-popular attraction by security staff.
One told RTN: “We are closed – everything is closed.”

However, he confirmed keepers would be caring for some 460 animals over the next six months as they undergo health checks and found new homes under strict guideline covering their movement.

The closure is a blow for locals who worked with animals or in the restaurant and bar.
A once ground-breaking attraction on the Marina Alta, it allowed visitors to watch animals wandering ‘semi-wild’ in enclosures and boasted 1,400 animals of some 150 different species.
The park covered half a million square metres close to Pego Marshes and also had an important collection of over 150 types of fauna.

However, the number of tourists passing through the gates has tumbled from a golden age of 250,000 a year to fewer than 15,000.
It is understood the safari park failed to keep pace with new attractions such as Terra Natura in Benidorm and Valencia’s L’Oceanografic and Bioparc.
El Vergel allowed visitors to drive through the enclosures housing a menagerie of Bengal tigers, lions, water buffalo, elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros, and 25 Vietnamese pigs. Other attractions included a sea lion show and a large aviary.
The park also made news by taking part in breeding programmes for wild animals.

However, El Vergel made international headlines for the wrong reasons in May 1999. Disregarding all warning notices, an elderly German couple got out of their car and were killed by three tigers.
From the

A perfunctory “ Hereby we inform (you) of the indefinite closure of our facilities .Without further ado, Greetings” was the poignant and solitary message posted on Vergel Safari Parks website last Wednesday September 9, informing the world that after thirty three years the Park was to close its doors for the very last time.

The recession and competition from other tourist attractions such as Terra Natura in Benidorm and Valencia’s Bioparc had all conspired to bring about the demise of one of the Costa Blanca favourite leisure destinations.

Vergel Safari Park had been a pioneer on the Costa Blanca of the then new concept of housing animals in an environment close to their natural habitat as possible, and away from the more confined zoo concept. However, times move on and the newer facilities of the competitors and ever changing mores of the leisure industry, left behind the park struggling to keep up its visitor numbers which had plummeted a massive 80% over the last three years.

The Park occupied some half a million square metres of land next to the Pego marsh, and was home to around one thousand four hundred animals covering one hundred and fifty species. Half of the Parks fifty employees have been made redundant with immediate effect, whilst the remaining staff are being kept on to continue caring for the animals over a six month period during which it is hoped they can all be successfully found new homes.

The economic knock on effect to the Marina Alta area will be felt through the direct unemployment of the workers, and indirectly a drop in trade for the ancillary businesses that benefitted from the tourist influx into the area to visit the Park.

In the long run perhaps the one thing the Park will be remembered for is the incident in 1999, when two German pensioners were killed by a tiger when they unwittingly left their vehicle, thinking they had left the secure area, when in fact they had merely passed from the lion’s enclosure through to that of the tigers.

It would be a pity if this was the only legacy of the Park, which brought so many happy days out over three decades for families throughout the region.
from Euro Weekly News

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