Pupils launch petition to save Sealife Sanctuary

More than 100 people signed a petition asking for the sanctuary to remain open

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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. Redecorated – just a coat of paint throughout. A new building housing other creatures of the sea and why not a play area?

‘The Sealife Sanctuary needs money spent, but it could become a money spinner if not for Merlin, for another concern.

‘Advertise, children’s parties, educational visits from schools … we all live near the sea but how much do we teach the children about it and what lives there and what is killing 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 just some of the suggestions made by members for the site’s alternative use if a buyer was found.

The possibility of the land being sold for housing was also discussed.