Five-year-old from Essex raises money for Colchester Zoo by building mini Lego version in front garden

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Charlie Frost

A five-year-old aspiring zookeeper from Essex has built his own mini version of Colchester Zoo with Lego, to raise money for the animals.

Thomas (TJ) Rose started his own fundraising campaign by building the model in his front garden in Great Dunmow.

He has been visiting the zoo since he was a baby and wanted to do something to help after its finances were torn apart by the pandemic.

TJ says dreams of being a zookeeper when he's older. Credit: ITV News Anglia

TJ, who is passionate about animal conservation, started building his zoo at the beginning of the second lockdown and has already managed to raise more than £3,500.

TJ and his family used to visit the zoo at least once a month before lockdown. Credit: The Rose family

Attractions across the East are finding it hard to make ends meet after being forced to shut twice this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Bosses at Colchester Zoo say they need help now more than ever and have launched an emergency funding page to get through winter.

Colchester Zoo Credit: ITV News Anglia

Colchester Zoo has more than 10,000 animals in its care and says as it gets colder its bills are getting more expensive.

With no customers coming through its doors for months because of both lockdowns, its finances are depleted, and even when its not open, the animals still need taking care of.

It employs more than 450 people, and first shut in March. It managed to re-open in Summer with restrictions in place, but was forced to close again earlier this month.

Around 80% of its staff have been placed on furlough, but the rest need to be kept on to care for the animals.

TJ has already raised more than £3,500 for Colchester Zoo. Credit: ITV News Anglia

TJ stands outside his house most days speaking to people on their daily exercise and encourages them to donate. 

His mum Kirsty Rose says they are extremely proud of him.

TJ started out wanting to raise £50, enough to feed a rhino for the day. Now, he's set his sights on raising £10,000 to feed all of the animals.

Good luck TJ!