Fighting for future of Shepreth Wildlife Park
Shepreth Wildlife Park’s future may be hanging in the balance, with costs of almost £3,000 a day to look after the animals and no income from visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The park is seeking the help of the public through donations on its Go Fund Me page – or through buying gifts from its online shop – in a bid to cover some of the costs of feeding and caring for the animals.
All of the keepers are still working while the park is closed in the lockdown, but the animals would have to be rehomed at other UK zoos if the worst scenario was to happen.
Director Rebecca Willers said: “While we are able to furlough a large number of the staff, we do need to keep our essential animal keepers working as normal to care for the animals, as their welfare remains our top priority.
“Although we are closed, our core bills remain unchanged. We still must pay our energy bills, food bills, veterinary costs, waste and water bills. The wildlife park costs approximately £2,700 a day to operate since it requires such specialist care and maintenance.
“The team is currently applying for a loan to be able to meet these bills for the next six months, and while we are grateful to have this lifeline, the repayments will be impossible if the wildlife park remains closed to visitors.
“We do not receive any other form of funding and truly hope normality resumes very soon so we can continue the great work we do on conservation, education and rehabilitation.
“The school trips that we host throughout the spring and summer terms will be a huge revenue loss to us and make a sadly very quiet and desolate park, which has never had to close its doors on this level before.
“We know everyone is in the same boat, but if you could consider buying a birthday or Easter gift from our shop that would help a lot.”
The zoo belongs to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which includes 122 zoos that could rehome any animals if the park had to close permanently.
Rebecca said: “Our community is very tight and we would rally around to protect the animals. The worst case scenario is if Shepreth is gone they would be rehomed by other zoos.”
She added that the zoo has always been a part of her life: “My dad, Terry Willers, bought the land in 1979 and I was born in 1980, so I was born into this life. There are pictures of me as a five year-old hand-feeding animals.
“I used to help put the animals away at night after school and I will fight for the park to the bitter end – there is no way we will let a virus take us out.”
Looking after the animals carries on the same, but it all takes much longer as the keepers have to work at a distance from each other.
And it’s not the the tigers which are the most expensive to look after, says Rebecca. “Funnily enough the more expensive animals to look after are the reptiles in the tropical house which need specialist lighting, specialist heating and a specialist diet rather than the tiger which seats outside and only eats every couple of days.
“But actually the otters are quite expensive. I put in a fish order yesterday for their mussel and prawns that they like to eat and that cost over £1000. It’s a lot of money for a little family of otters.”
More by this authorAlex Spencer