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Brighten up that work Zoom call - with an aardvark




After weeks in lockdown everyone can become a bit jaded with the morning Zoom call from work – but what if you could invite an aardvark to the meeting?

Shepreth Wildlife Park has been looking for ways to allow people to still get face-to-face with the animals they love during the Covid-19 pandemic – and raise much-needed funds to help them care for the animals.

And its latest offer is the chance to surprise your colleagues by ‘virtually’ inviting an animal to join in your call in the background.

Rebecca Willers at Shepreth Wildlife Park, Station Rd, Shepreth who has become ill since going to Sumatra. Picture: Keith Heppell. (34336454)
Rebecca Willers at Shepreth Wildlife Park, Station Rd, Shepreth who has become ill since going to Sumatra. Picture: Keith Heppell. (34336454)

Rebecca Willers, one of the park’s directors, said: “We really need to keep raising funds for the zoo as it costs £1,700 per day just for animal feed, vets’ bills, electricity bills and employing keepers to look after our animals. The one thing we won’t do is compromise the welfare of our animals.

“So we have been looking for ways for people to enjoy seeing the animals while making a donation that can help keep us cover our running costs.”

The experience is completely non-intrusive for the animals as keepers simply place a camera in or close to their enclosure. And viewers can choose a virtual visit from an aardvark, tortoises, capybara, farm animals (alpaca, pony or donkey), reptiles or invertebrates, owls or a red panda.

Dean Ward head keeper at Shepreth Wildlife Park in the new aardvark house which was opened on Christmas Eve by Santa. Experiences at the zoo have increased massively. Picture: Keith Heppell. (34657516)
Dean Ward head keeper at Shepreth Wildlife Park in the new aardvark house which was opened on Christmas Eve by Santa. Experiences at the zoo have increased massively. Picture: Keith Heppell. (34657516)

The zoo is asking for a minimum donation of £25 for up to 15 minutes of animal participation on your virtual meeting. Anyone who takes up the offer will also receive a visitor pass so they can visit the park in the future and a certificate of thanks.

There is also the opportunity of a one-to-one virtual visit with an animal over a video call, watching a keeper doing training, enrichment or feeding and people can ask questions about the animal.

Rebecca said: “As the park remains closed we are unable to make money from ticket sales to cover our costs and have had to take out another loan at very high interest. That will see us through for another four months, but we are just accruing more and more debt at the moment and you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. We already had several loans in place for projects around the park such as the new African Sands building.

“When we can do some phased opening we can start making plans for our expected income, but at the moment we are relying on people buying these virtual experiences or the generosity of people making donations. One day you might get £50 or £500, the next day nothing. We can’t survive on that. But closing down permanently is not part of our plans.”

Wicket, the baby marmoset (34323325)
Wicket, the baby marmoset (34323325)

Rebecca is also planning to run a sponsored half marathon around the park as she recently took part in the Cambridge Half Marathon.

Meanwhile, one recent happy event has been the birth of a marmoset which has been called Wicket after the name was chosen in a competition on Facebook.

Rebecca says: “No one will know the sex of the marmoset until it reaches puberty so we had to choose a unisex name. We picked Wicket as we made the announcement on Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, and thought it would be appropriate as it was the name of an Ewok from the films.”

To find out more about virtual experiences, visit sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk/product-category/virtual-experiences or justgiving.com/fundraising/saveourzoowildlife.

To make a donation, visit sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk/product/donation.



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