Long road ahead to recover from Covid-19, say wildlife park bosses

Bosses at the zoo in Cumbria say it will take a long time for their business to recover from the effects of COVID-19

The Lake District Wildlife Park was able to reopen three weeks ago, but social distancing measures mean some of their activities are still on hold, including school trips. 

It means the park is without vital revenue during what should be peak-season. Head keeper Richard Robinson told ITV Border: "Our overheads are huge and our revenue comes from visitors coming through the doors. So with no visitors, no revenue but our overheads were still very very high.

"We've started the season now with a deficit. If we end the year on zero I'll be in a happy place. We can't reduce the costs of the operating business. The animal feed bills, the veterinary bills - they're all still there."

Lake District Wildlife Park Credit: ITV News

The Lake District Wildlife park shutdown in March and, in the three months that followed, the zoo lost out or more than £225,000 of revenue. 

Normally at this time of year, the park would be busy with school trips, as pupils enjoy an end-of-term day out, but this year is different. Many children are still not back at school, as anxiety surrounding coronavirus continues. 

Lucy Dunn: "Ordinarily we'd run workshops for schools groups so they have a small classroom session learning some basics then they would go out and actually look at the animals so it's a real shame we haven't actually got them here visiting us this year.

"We'd like to send them lots of videos to keep them up tot date and we've got some interactive resources that they can work on either at school at home."

Several babies have been born since the park closed in March. Credit: ITV News

Despite the financial loss, bosses say the return of visitors gives them cautious hope. Richard said: "We're not as busy as we would expect to be because the tourist trade is not here yet, but it is on its way, people are coming.

"Because of the space we've got available, when numbers do start to increase it will still be a comfortable safe place to visit. But ideally we get a good spell of weather for the summer months and we break even, you know we'll be here next year."

The park has seen a number of babies born since the coronavirus lockdown. Just last week, ten iron age piglets were born here

Richard said: "It's difficult times from everybody and everyone has been struggling a bit with stress and anxiety in these uncertain times. So to have some new faces, new arrivals at the park is fantastic.

"It doesn't matter what the youngster is, whether it's a pig or wilder-beast, or a zebra, everyone loves to try and spot the youngsters."

Staff at the Lake District Wildlife Park hope these young animal will breath new life into the zoo