Exmoor Zoo has said a huge thank you to the community that saved it as attraction prepares to reopen on Sunday, July 5.

Exmoor Zoo's 'beast of Exmoor', Ebony the black leopard. Picture: Exmoor ZooExmoor Zoo's 'beast of Exmoor', Ebony the black leopard. Picture: Exmoor Zoo

The zoo near Bratton Fleming had to close its doors in March amid fears the loss of income could see it close for good and the future of all its animals was uncertain.

But a crowdfunding campaign raised £41,000 from supporters and with help from North Devon MP Selaine Saxby the zoo was also able to secure grant funding from Defra.

When it opens it will be operating a one-way system and ensuring people adhere to social distancing and other Covid-19 restrictions.

Entry is via pre-booking of specific time slots only, through the zoo website.

Exmoor Zoo owners Danny and Lynn Reynolds. Picture: Exmoor ZooExmoor Zoo owners Danny and Lynn Reynolds. Picture: Exmoor Zoo

Unlike most businesses, zoos could not just shut the doors and wait the lockdown out, as they still had the same running costs and the animals had to be fed and looked after every day.

Owners Danny and Lynn Reynolds said without a constant flow of visitors they faced a struggle to survive, after 20 years of building a zoo with passion and selective breeds for conservation.

Danny said: “The hardest thing I have ever done was to make some members of staff redundant and others to furlough.

“But it was just a case of survival in the hope that things would get better and we could re-employ everyone, as all our staff are valued as members of our family and zoo keepers aren’t that easy to find, especially on Exmoor.

“Cash was still key for survival and when Lynn put a Go Fund me page out it became very clear that under the threat of immediate closure the true nature of British people come out and showed how much they care about our zoo and the work we do.

“We were amazed at the generosity the general public was outstanding and immediately one person gave a donation of £10,000 to help with the running costs.”

The support from good-hearted people and businesses came thick and fast - the zoo’s neighbours, distraught at the unthinkable loss of the song of gibbons each morning, donated £1,000.

A 14-year-old who had started a business selling quail’s eggs gave the zoo a weeks’ worth of production, while a bike ride by Simon Beebly raised £1,300.

ASDA allowed a collection box, as did Morrisons, while Sainsburys and Tesco donated all their out of date fruit.

Danny and Lynn say they have been overwhelmed by the amount of help and support offered, and can’t thank local people enough.

Exmoor Zoo is hosting a VIP and season ticket holders’ day on Saturday, July 4 when Selaine Saxby MP will officially reopen it at 12noon.

There is also a silent auction and raffle running on the Exmoor Zoo Facebook page.

To book a time slot for your visit to the reopened Exmoor Zoo, go to http://www.exmoorzoo.co.uk .