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Zoo fears for future after closing during Covid-19 crisis

It costs more than £10,000 a week to run Exmoor Zoo in Devon – whether it is open or closed.

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A puma kitten at Exmoor Zoo in north Devon (Exmoor Zoo/PA)

A puma kitten at Exmoor Zoo in north Devon (Exmoor Zoo/PA)

A puma kitten at Exmoor Zoo in north Devon (Exmoor Zoo/PA)

The owners of a popular zoo are warning the future is bleak after being forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Danny Reynolds, who runs Exmoor Zoo in north Devon, said it cost at least £10,000 a week to operate the facility and income has now dried up with the closure.

He made an urgent plea for financial help in order to avoid the “worst case scenario” of euthanising the animals.

“We cannot afford to close and we are unsure if we can survive the shutdown,” Mr Reynolds said.

“Regardless, we will incur more debt and we may never in the long run emerge from this as we still have to get through next winter.

“Tourists have been told to stay away and our income has completely stopped after what has been the worst two wet winters in a row and some very poor trading as a consequence.

“What will happen to us and the animals we care for is anybody’s guess.

“My worst scenario is having to consider euthanasia as the money dries up. Really worrying times – more so than for many other businesses.”

The zoo was reopened in 1993 when Mr Reynolds and his wife Lynn moved to Barnstaple from Guildford in Surrey.

The family-run zoo now employs 24 staff and looks after hundreds of animals.

“With about 50,000 visitors a year, this now looks like it will all end with the coronavirus as we suddenly have no income for the foreseeable future and over 350 animals to care for,” Mr Reynolds said.

Among the residents at Exmoor Zoo is the Tragopan (Exmoor Zoo/PA)
Among the residents at Exmoor Zoo is the tragopan (Exmoor Zoo/PA)

“Today the zoo is more than a tourist attraction – it is a way of life for us and all our team and a part of the social fabric of the area.”

The zoo closed on Sunday with no prospect of reopening.

“It breaks our hearts to know that the zoo has come to this,” Mr Reynolds said.

“We have lived and breathed this zoo and enjoyed creating a unique and very special place that anybody could visit, enjoy and learn within.

“This couldn’t happen at a worse time of the year for us when we are at the end of the winter.

“Everybody in the tourist trade was looking forward to the start of the new season, we have had yet another awful wet winter and the promise of better weather was hopeful.”

The zoo has set up a fundraising page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-our-zoo?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

PA