Paignton Zoo launches ‘Help our Zoo’ appeal

Paignton Zoo's Simon Tonge Photo: Paignton Zoo

Paignton Zoo's Simon Tonge Photo: Paignton Zoo - Credit: Archant

Paignton Zoo has launched an appeal after being forced to close in the pandemic

Life goes on as normal for the Orangutans at Paignton Zoo. Photo: Paignton Zoo

Life goes on as normal for the Orangutans at Paignton Zoo. Photo: Paignton Zoo - Credit: Archant

Paignton Zoo has launched a cash appeal to help it through the current crisis lockdown which has decimated its business.

It has only been forced to close a handful of times since it opened in 1923 - in 1924 over a dispute about entertainment tax, in the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak and now due to the pandemic.

The zoo closed just before the Easter holidays. It says it will re-open when government measures are relaxed, but it may look different in terms of the animal collection.

It says it is having to look at how it can save on running costs to continue to operate, both through the lockdown and beyond.

There is only one way for Paignton Zoo and that's up- as shown by one of their lemurs. Photo: Paignt

There is only one way for Paignton Zoo and that's up- as shown by one of their lemurs. Photo: Paignton Zoo - Credit: Archant

Executive Director Simon Tonge: 'We believe that re-opening will be unlikely before July or even later, although, we hope that that's us being pessimistic.

'Our next task, which has already started, is to look really hard at the cost-base of our organisation and to think about how we can streamline ourselves for the coming brave new world.

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'What we know for certain is that the Paignton Zoo that comes out of this crisis will not be the same as the one that went into it. What we will ensure is that it is a resilient organisation that will continue to achieve its aims long into the future.'

Life is going on behind the scenes but it's a challenge. A lot of the staff have been furloughed, but many keepers, vets, maintenance staff, gardeners and cleaners are still working hard.

They've had to change the way they work to comply with social distancing norms. They are working alone and take staggered breaks and they cannot share vehicles to get around the zoo.

Keepers already wear gloves and rarely handle the animals, but now there's also a lot more handwashing. In the Ape House, the keeping team is kept to a few dedicated keepers, and masks and gloves are worn when working and preparing the food, and they are maintaining social distancing between them and the animals.

The zoo has launched an appeal. To make a donation go their Virgin Money Giving page - www.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/helpourzoo.