Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park will reopen to the public this Saturday, July 11 after fighting for survival during the coronavirus lockdown.

Leopards at Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park, among many animals whose future was uncertain unless funding could be found or the lockdown eased. Picture: CMWDPLeopards at Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park, among many animals whose future was uncertain unless funding could be found or the lockdown eased. Picture: CMWDP

The attraction will have a host of Covid-19 safe measures in place including limited visitor numbers with entry by pre-booked slots, plus a one-way system, extra cleaning and hand sanitiser stations plus PPE for staff, with visitors encouraged to wear masks.

Most animal encounters and talks will be unable to go ahead due to social distancing, although the park has recorded a series of exclusive video talks that are available to view via your phone.

After facing the loss of more than £250,000 in revenue, there were fears the park’s animals would have to be rehomed or put to sleep.

A community crowdfunder appeal raised more than £26,000 and the attraction was eventually able to secure funding from Defra’s zoos emergency fund.

Lenny and Leo the lions at Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park. Picture: CMWDPLenny and Leo the lions at Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park. Picture: CMWDP

Park director Dawn Gilbert said: “Thank you for all your support in these unprecedented times and we really hope we can all get back to normal soon.

“The zoo is reliant on visitors to survive so thank you for visiting us.”

The chance to reopen could not have come too soon. Speaking to the Gazette in May, Mrs 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.

She said then: “I am really scared we won’t get through this. If everything is alright 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.”

Pugwash the penguin is a Combe Martin WIldlife & Dinosaur Park favourite. Picture: CMWDPPugwash the penguin is a Combe Martin WIldlife & Dinosaur Park favourite. Picture: CMWDP

Her father Robert Butcher opened the park in 1986 and still lives there, aged 80, but he is now living with vascular dementia.

She 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.”

To book a time slot for your visit, go to https://cmwdp.co.uk. The new one-way system will mean reduced access for wheelchair users. Anyone with questions is invited to call 01271 882486 or email info@cmwdp.co.uk.

Keep up to date with the latest videos and information on the Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park Facebook page.

One of the Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park baboons. Picture: CMWDPOne of the Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park baboons. Picture: CMWDP