Some Reflections & Thank-yous...
With the Park now open, albeit differently from the last 30 years, we look back at what we've all gone through and reflect on what might be ahead.
Unlike many Zoos, we made the decision not to furlough any of our keeper staff, and kept on our full team and our regular volunteers all the way through this. We simply borrowed the money to pay their wages and our Vets, (as no help was available from Government to do this) to ensure that our standards of animal care were not compromised at any stage.
The result was that 120 animals were born at the Park during lock-down, including some very special species.
We are lucky that the shortage of Veterinary medicines and operating theatre facilities, and the reduction or elimination of specialist veterinary care was not needed as there were no major emergencies during this period.
Public support (from individuals and local companies) was wonderful.
We did not resort to scare tactics about the Parks survival or possible euthanasia of animals to drum up public donations and media attention, so are also very grateful for the continuing support and coverage from the local media, which has helped raise the profile of all zoos and the work we do.
So many people have helped, it is both humbling to us and difficult for us to single out anyone specially.
But - THANK YOU...!
Going forward, we now owe a huge amount of money. This will inevitably slow down our planned developments, but we hope not stop them altogether. Our new Bear Meadow which has been worked on over most of the last year and is one of our largest projects to date, has resulted in the return of the Syrian Bear to the UK, was due to open at Easter, but lock-down has meant this has been delayed until August - we are almost there..
Thank you all again, and please watch this space...!
UPDATE 21 August 2020
As we approach the end of the summer season autumn is on the horizon. This usually means a dramatic drop-off in visitor numbers as the school holidays end - and we will see what is in store this year.
The Park now has enough reserves from trading and borrowing (plus a small but welcome amount of funds from Government) to be secure until the start of next season.
Our large new bear exhibit is working well and is one of the few major expansions made by any British zoo this year. Our plans to move the domestic animals from their current area (which will then house a number of new arrivals) will be on hold until we see what happens; but work will continue on the new Meerkat enclosure, plus exhibits for Echidnas and other animals inside the Park. We expect that these will be completed over winter and be ready for spring 2021, along with the re-introduction of the train route too. Replacement of some of the original aviaries will continue, and at least 3 more will be added.
All of these plans are of course subject to our being allowed to remain open and trade through the autumn and winter, and not being caught up in any National or regional lock-downs.
New arrivals are expected over the autumn, the first being two new Poitou Donkey jennies from Poitou-Charentes, which are due to arrive next week. 'Diddy' and 'Hashtag' have been waiting in France since before lock-down and during that time have been mated by selected jacks unrelated to any of our current animals. Both have been scanned and are confirmed to be in-foal.