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Struggling Shepreth Wildlife Park must stay shut even when shops reopen

Concerns for the future of Shepreth Wildlife Park have been expressed as the government demands that zoos must remain shut for the foreseeable future – even though non-essential shops can reopen from next week.

After losing more than £400,000 in takings,the park is relying on donations and loans to keep paying the £1,700-a-day cost of looking after its animals.

Rebecca Willers at Shepreth Wildlife Park. Picture: Keith Heppell
Rebecca Willers at Shepreth Wildlife Park. Picture: Keith Heppell

Park director Rebecca Willers said: “It feels so unfair. What is the justification for allowing shops to open and keeping us closed? These are living animals we are looking after. It’s not a rack of clothes or a mannequin. These are living animals that we still have to pay for and yet we are the ones who can’t open. It doesn’t make any sense.

“We wouldn’t open our shop anyway – we don’t want the risk of bringing people into an inside area.

“We want to open our outside area, which we believe is a safe space to be in. We are literally penny-pinching. I check the accounts continuously throughout the day ”

The park, which has taken out large loans in order to survive as it relies on the goodwill of its supporters, was gearing up for an official reopening later this month. It had sprayed a two-metre spaced paw print around a one-way guided outdoor route.

The directors are hoping that a debate in Parliament tomorrow (Thursday) will give them new hope.

Rebecca added: “We are hoping then they will give us a date to open at some point. We just think it is ludicrous that we can’t open on June 15 with all of the non-essential shops.

“The socially-distanced Shepreth is just an outside route. All of the nocturnal house, the tropical house, the playbarn and the catering is closed, so it is just like a walk in the park but with animals.

Rebecca Willers at Shepreth Wildlife Park. Picture: Keith Heppell
Rebecca Willers at Shepreth Wildlife Park. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We will also have safety guardians around the park, so someone will spray the toilets after they have been used and we will have guardians to move people on if they are loitering in one place.

“We are strictly regulated as opposed to if you went on the beach where there is no one controlling it. So we believe we will be a safe destination.”

The park’s directors have been in contact with both the zoo association BIAZA and South Cambridgeshire Tory MP Anthony Browne, who are both fighting to get zoos and aquariums safely reopened before the end of the month.

Generous donations have been made to the park from companies across the region, with Barkers Butchers in Shelford contributing and match-funding from Brewin Dolphin in Cambridge.

Rebecca said support from its membership and visitors have kept the animals fed.

“We are very grateful to all the local companies, residents and supporters for their generous help over these past few months. Particularly to local businesses like John Cobb, which has gone out of its way to help us get back into a position to reopen safely,” she said.

To support the wildlife park, visit sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk/product/donation/.

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