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The entrance to the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Arima.

Management of the Asa Wright Nature Centre and Eco-Lodge has confirmed that 42 employees have been permanently laid off as the eco-lodge ceased operations.

In a statement issued by the Centre, board chairperson Professor Judith Gobin explained: “It was a very difficult decision for us, as we have staff who have been with us since we first opened our doors. We have made every effort to ensure our staff were employed from March to December 2020, but as we move forward into 2021 with no insight as to what is to come, we realised we could not afford to sustain this business. As a result, we were forced to make the hard decision to close down, regrettably releasing all members of our staff associated with the business.”

For those wanting to show support by visiting the biodiverse and serene location nestled in the Arima valley mountains, Asa Wright’s doors remain closed to the public. According to Gobin, restaurant, leisure, and tour services were also provided by the now laid-off eco-lodge staff.

“Unfortunately, the service provided by the eco-lodge was facilitated by staff associated with the eco-lodge business. We will have a revaluation again about how this corporation will continue because we have no staff, we cannot open the premises to the public at the moment,” she said.

Gobin, in the Centre’s statement, explained the board’s decision to close the eco-lodge: “We have made every effort to attempt to keep the lodge operational, but its closure was inevitable. With no visitors, no revenue, no endowment, and no direct government assistance, it has been extremely challenging for the Asa Wright Nature Centre.”

When asked if the Centre had applied for governmental assistance, Gobin looked at past interactions with the government.

“We haven’t made a direct appeal to the government because we have done in the past, and we have had no response of any significance,” she said.

All is not lost for Asa Wright, as Professor Gobin stressed, “This is really a financial decision based on what has happened. Despite the closure of the eco-lodge, the Trust, with the board of management, will continue the conservation work with the assistance of volunteers as well as the support of donors.”

She reiterated that the management would be “working feverishly to apply for grants and working on funded project proposals.”

Professor Gobin emphasises that the conservation and protection work of the Trust continues and is heartened by the response to its call for funding for this work—which was first made in October 2020.