Situation 'dire' for zoo which fears it could have to euthanise animals

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The owners of a zoo in mid Wales have said they are "living on the breadline" and may have to consider euthanising animals if they do not get more money coming in soon.

Borth Wild Animal Kingdom near Aberystwyth is struggling financially as lockdown restrictions mean it has been shut to visitors for months, with no income to support the large expenses that come with looking after the animals.

Owners Dean and Tracy Tweedy said euthanising animals would be considered as "an absolute last resort" if they cannot afford to feed them but they are hopeful it will not come to that.

Whilst donations have kept them afloat for now, they said if they cannot open up again soon the situation will be "dire".

There are 500 animals at the zoo. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Dean and Tracy Tweedy took over management of the zoo three years ago and said they have put a lot of hard work into turning it around.

After the normal quiet winter period earlier this year, they were relying on trade over Easter but lockdown restrictions meant they missed out on those ticket sales.

That one week over Easter accounts for a quarter of their yearly profits.

Coming out of the winter when there is no money, we expect to go into the Easter with a big influx of visitors and obviously that hasn't happened so financially we are in a very serious situation.

Tracy Tweedy

Mr Tweedy said they have furloughed about half of their staff but kept six keepers working as they need people to feed the 500 animals every day. Looking after those animals also costs a lot of money.

At one point, the zoo was down to just enough money to continue caring for the animals for one more week. Luckily, after a public appeal, they received a lifeline of more than £9,000 in donations but that lifeline can only go so far.

It costs around £3,000 each week to run the zoo and the owners are worried that if things get desperate, they would have to euthanise some of the animals.

Mr Tweedy hopes that never has to happen. He added that he "would go hungry [himself] before the animals went hungry" and they are determined to pull through this difficult time.

The Borth Wild Animal Kingdom is in mid Wales. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay are also in a similar position.

A much larger operation than the one in Borth, it costs them £30,000 a week to run and maintain. They said they "are hanging on by the skin of [their] teeth" and this crisis could threaten the very existence of their zoo.

While the furlough scheme and a business relief grant have helped Borth Wild Animal Kingdom, they said they need to reopen at some point soon as they are not eligible for any other Welsh Government grants or schemes.

Tracy and Dean Tweedy said because they are an open air attraction, they could easily put in place social distancing measures. This would allow them to open and get the ticket sales they vitally need.

Tracy and Dean Tweedy hope they will be able to open up at some point this summer. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

A petition calling on the Senedd to create a coronavirus support fund for zoos has reached more than 4,500 signatures online.

Zoos in England are able to access a similar scheme but Welsh Government said a specific fund for zoos here is not necessary. They said animal welfare is a priority but Welsh zoos should be able to access financial support from existing government schemes.