A grateful Exmoor Zoo has been able to reopen to the public after three months under coronavirus lockdown.

Cheetahs finish off a meal at Exmoor Zoo. Picture: Tony GussinCheetahs finish off a meal at Exmoor Zoo. Picture: Tony Gussin

An invitation-only day was held on Saturday, July 4 to thank all those who had helped the attraction survive, with the official opening carried out by North Devon MP Selaine Saxby, followed by opening to the public on Sunday.

The zoo has been closed since March and there were fears it might never reopen, with the future of the animals in doubt.

A crowdfunding campaign raised more than £41,000 and helped keep things going until funding was available from Defra, with help from Ms Saxby.

Now open, it is operating a one-way system and ensuring people adhere to social distancing and other Covid-19 restrictions.

One of the two Exmoor Zoo Eurasian wolves. Picture: Tony GussinOne of the two Exmoor Zoo Eurasian wolves. Picture: Tony Gussin

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

The owners of 20 years, Danny and Lynn Reynolds said they had been overwhelmed by the amount of help and support offered, and could not thank local people enough.

Mr Reynolds said one of the hardest things he had ever done was to have to make some staff redundant and put others on furlough during the lockdown.

Speaking on Saturday, he said: “It’s been wonderful to be able to say thank you to everybody that has helped the zoo survive up to the point where we can be open again.

The Exmoor Zoo meerkats look forlornly out of the window at the rain on reopening day after lockdown. Picture: Tony GussinThe Exmoor Zoo meerkats look forlornly out of the window at the rain on reopening day after lockdown. Picture: Tony Gussin

“To get it open, with people coming in, will make a real difference and get everybody back from furlough and help to get the economy running again.”

He praised Selaine Saxby for her ‘tireless’ help on behalf of the area and said it was tremendous to have her conduct the official reopening.

Ms Saxby said she was delighted to see the zoo reopen after working closely with them during the pandemic.

She said: “They were among the first in the South West to receive grant funding and there’s another £100million coming in to the zoo fund nationally.

The Exmoor Zoo meerkats look forlornly out of the window at the rain on reopening day after lockdown. Picture: Tony GussinThe Exmoor Zoo meerkats look forlornly out of the window at the rain on reopening day after lockdown. Picture: Tony Gussin

“The team here have done a fantastic job. One of the things I would like to stress is this has gone on throughout the pandemic, where local businesses have been in touch with me and I have been able to take their concerns to ministers at Westminster.”

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

An Exmoor Zoo wallaby greets visitors on the first day open after lockdown. Picture: Tony GussinAn Exmoor Zoo wallaby greets visitors on the first day open after lockdown. Picture: Tony Gussin

Tapir out taking the air at Exmoor Zoo. Picture: Tony GussinTapir out taking the air at Exmoor Zoo. Picture: Tony Gussin

The first day open after lockdown was very wet and some sensible creatures at Exmoor Zoo ensured they stayed warm and dry. Picture: Tony GussinThe first day open after lockdown was very wet and some sensible creatures at Exmoor Zoo ensured they stayed warm and dry. Picture: Tony Gussin