Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park has repeated its plea for help to stave off the dreadful cost to its animals and staff if the coronavirus crisis forces it to close down for good.
The attraction says it has already lost £250,000 in revenue after shutting down before Easter and by the end of May it expects that to be around £400,000.
Park director Dawn Gilbert said she and her husband had taken out a loan to try and pay the remaining 25 staff and animal feed bills, in addition to a crowdfunder to try and raise money from the community.
Dawn told the Gazette staff numbers would normally rise to 50 in season, all of them from the village, with a massive knock on effect if the jobs were lost.
The park has said so far there has been no Government assistance.
Recently DEFRA announced a package of support for UK zoos and wildlife parks called the Zoo’s Support Fund and it is hoped Combe Martin may be able to benefit from this.
Dawn said: “The Government does not help the tourist industry enough, my animals will have to be rehomed or euthanised and there will no park.
“I am really scared we won’t get through this. If everything is alight by the summer holidays we might just do it, but if not I don’t know how we will have the money to survive the winter.”
The online GoFundMe page has raised just over £20,000 so far and the park has had support from Aldi in Bideford and Edd’s green grocers to supply some fruit and vegetables, but unfortunately the park cannot accept donations of meat or fish as it has to have the correct Defra paperwork and be certified as not for human consumption.
Dawn said: “We are so grateful for everything that everyone has donated, it has literally been a lifeline. If any other businesses wish to donate veg, that’s always welcome, but apart from that it’s very difficult.”
Dawn’s father Robert Butcher opened the park in 1986 and still lives there, aged 80, but he is now living with vascular dementia.
Dawn said: “When my dad bought the place it had been derelict for 10 or 15 years. He built it up from nothing and his lasting legacy at the age of 80 will now go down the pan.”
A DEFRA spokesman said: “We are currently developing a Zoo Support Fund for zoos in England that have exhausted all other options available to them, with similar support being provided by the devolved administrations. Details on how the fund will work and the application process will follow.
“Further details on the Zoo Support Fund will follow in due course. The fund will apply to England only.
“The social distancing guidance, urging people to stay at home and save lives, has meant that many businesses have had to close temporarily for the safety of their staff and customers. Zoos are undertaking very valuable work at this time to ensure that the health and welfare needs of the diverse range of animals they care for are well met.
“Zoos are eligible to apply for a range of support schemes including business rates relief, the business interruption loan scheme, and the job retention scheme. This is additional to other available relief such as VAT deferral.”
The park’s fundraising appeal can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-save-combe-martin-wildlife-amp-dinosaur-park .