Dartmoor Zoo raises £44,000 in emergency appeal to save it from closure during coronavirus lockdown

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A zoo in Devon was saved from closure during the coronavirus lockdown after more than £44,000 of donations helped it meet its fundraising target in a single night. 

Dartmoor Zoo, in Sparkwell, can now survive for another month in spite of losing all its visitors after it raised more than double its £20,000 target since Saturday.

The zoo, which requires £11,500 a week to look after its 250 animals, was unable to claim £100,000 of business interruption money through insurance.

However, the company has been able to pay its remaining staff and avoid a worst-case scenario of having to euthanise its animals thanks to the donations.

Dartmoor Zoo in Devon has been able to stay afloat after £44,000 of donations came in to support it through the coronavirus pandemic

The zoo is one of many to struggle with high overheads while not bringing in any revenue from footfall during the nationwide lockdown

The zoo is one of many to struggle with high overheads while not bringing in any revenue from footfall during the nationwide lockdown 

Deputy chief executive Coral Jones said: ‘We looked at our donations emails this morning, and there was an amazing response. The support is incredible.

‘There’s people donating half their salaries in one go, there are people donating £50, but even just a tenner or a fiver makes such a difference.’

‘The positive comments have been really humbling, that people are happy to support us and keen to carry on supporting us,’ she told Sky News.

Zoos across the country have been struggling with high overheads under the lockdown, which has prevented income from footfall during the holiday period.

The zoo's owner Benjamin Mee says it has to continue to pay for the animal's food, vet bills and zookeepers but is unable to continue to do so without financial help

The zoo’s owner Benjamin Mee says it has to continue to pay for the animal’s food, vet bills and zookeepers but is unable to continue to do so without financial help 

The 33-acre zoo houses 250 animals, including African lions, Amur tigers (above), jaguars, lynxes and more

The 33-acre zoo houses 250 animals, including African lions, Amur tigers (above), jaguars, lynxes and more

Food, vet bills and zookeepers are all high costs that zoos have to pay, according to Datmoor Zoo’s owner Ben Mee.

Exmoor Zoo and Combe Martin Wildlife Park in North Devon and Paignton Zoo in South Devon have all also had to launch fundraising campaigns to stay afloat. 

Dartmoor Zoo has already furloughed around two thirds of its staff, with 14 being kept on to feed the animals.

Ms Jones said the zoo was having to look for new homes for its animals before the flood of donations and even had to consider euthanasia in a worst-case scenario.

Deputy chief executive Coral Jones said: 'We looked at our donations emails this morning, and there was an amazing response. The support is incredible'

Deputy chief executive Coral Jones said: ‘We looked at our donations emails this morning, and there was an amazing response. The support is incredible’

The zoo launched the emergency appeal on JustGiving on Saturday after halting visitors as early as March 23. 

It said: ‘It is with a very heavy heart that we did not open Dartmoor Zoo this morning and we will be closed from today until further notice. 

‘At the moment this is the only available course of action to ensure the safety of visitors, members of staff and ultimately the animals, who are dependent on a functioning zoo surviving this period of uncertainty.

‘With the measures currently in place we are 100% confident that we will be able to re-open when circumstances allow, and we are actively exploring all the options in a rapidly changing situation. 

‘However, we are completely reliant on our ticket income and as a result of the winter, our reserves are almost exhausted and we will soon run out of money. 

‘We are all devastated that we have to close, but with your understanding and support, we will be back as soon as we can.’ 

Ben Mee bought the zoo with his family in 2006 and moved in with his children Milo and Ella. The 2008 book We Bought A Zoo told his story, leading to a 2011 film featuring Matt Damon to be released loosely based on the book

Ben Mee bought the zoo with his family in 2006 and moved in with his children Milo and Ella. The 2008 book We Bought A Zoo told his story, leading to a 2011 film featuring Matt Damon to be released loosely based on the book 

Dartmoor Zoo was bought by the Mee family in 2006 in a move that inspired the book 2008 We Bought A Zoo.

He reopened the zoo in 2007 after moving in with his children Milo and Ella and a  2011 film featuring Matt Damon was released loosely based on his story.

The zoo became a member of British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2011. 

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