Chil­dren launch pe­ti­tion to save Seal­ife Sanc­tu­ary

The Oban Times - - NEWS - By David McPhee dm­cphee@oban­

Pupils from Oban High School cre­ated a pe­ti­tion that re­ceived more than 100 sig­na­tures ask­ing for the Scot­tish Seal­ife Sanc­tu­ary to re­main open.

Thomas Hall and Shan­non Mc­Nab handed the ap­peal to the at­trac­tion’s staff in Bar­cad­line.

Thomas’s dad, Tony, said: ‘The Seal­ife Sanc­tu­ary near Oban is part of the Mer­lin En­ter­tain­ments Group. Mer­lin own such at­trac­tions as Le­goland, War­wick Cas­tle, Madame Tus­sauds and Al­ton Tow­ers in the UK and other large at­trac­tions across the world.

‘The sanc­tu­ary is just a small park or at­trac­tion which I would guess is lit­tle more than a thorn in their side.’

Mer­lin En­ter­tain­ments an­nounced it would be clos­ing the sanc­tu­ary on Oc­to­ber 31, un­less a buyer was found.

‘You can see, look­ing around the place, how ne­glected it has be­come,’ Tony added. ‘From the pot­holes in the car park to the grubby glass on the seal en­clo­sure and the reg­u­lar re­duc­tion in ex­hibits. How dif­fer­ent it could be with a lit­tle bit of money spent. Up­grade the car park, tidy up the en­trance, a cou­ple of walks through the woods, prop­erly graded for wheel­chair ac­cess. A re­vamped shop. A coat of paint through­out. A new build­ing hous­ing other crea­tures of the sea and why not a play area? The Seal­ife Sanc­tu­ary could be­come a money spin­ner.

‘Ad­ver­tise, chil­dren’s par­ties, ed­u­ca­tional vis­its from schools ... we all live near the sea but how much do we teach the chil­dren about it?

‘Then there is the ac­tual sanc­tu­ary part of the op­er­a­tion. The Oban area needs some­where both to take res­cue an­i­mals and to nur­ture them and ed­u­cate peo­ple about them. It’s an im­por­tant haven lo­cally for this. Just a day out to take younger chil­dren to play, meet oth­ers, spend a bit in the cafe.

‘The Seal­ife Sanc­tu­ary seems to have been on a down­ward spi­ral for some years. Let’s get be­hind one more push to keep the place open.’

A spokesper­son for Mer­lin En­ter­tain­ments said: ‘We ac­knowl­edge the pe­ti­tion and can un­der­stand the dis­ap­point­ment of lo­cal peo­ple at the clo­sure of the sanc­tu­ary.

‘It has been a heart-wrench­ing de­ci­sion for all of those in­volved. How­ever, af­ter ex­plor­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble op­tion to the keep the fa­cil­ity open, none of­fered a vi­able so­lu­tion for its long-term sus­tain­abil­ity.’

The fu­ture of the Seal­ife Sanc­tu­ary came up at Ard­chat­tan Com­mu­nity Coun­cil meet­ing last Thurs­day.

An out­door cen­tre, bunk house or chil­dren’s ad­ven­ture play­ground were some of the sug­ges­tions made by mem­bers.

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