Zoos and wildlife centres across the West Country struggling to stay in business during coronavirus lockdown

The month-long lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic has left many zoos and wildlife centre across the West Country struggling to stay in business.

Porfell Wildlife Park in Cornwall and Bristol Zoo are among attractions that have launched fundraising campaigns as they struggle to meet everyday running costs.

Staff at Porfell, which is based near Lanreath, admit they are facing the very real threat of closure and the possible euthanasia of their animals.

All the animals at Porfell Wildlife Park are rescued. They are either surplus zoo animals, unwanted pets or animals that have been neglected. At the centre they are given a home for the rest of their lives.

We’ve all been close to tears at some point, we love these animals, we don’t want anything bad to happen to them, they’re here because we’re rescuing them and it’s their home for life and it should be for life.

Sophie Kent, Head Keeper at Porfell Wildlife Park
Porfell Wildlife Park has been unable to reopen after the winter due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Credit: ITV News

Despite being given a £10,000 government grant to help, Sophie says the park is still struggling.

Sophie added: "That would actually only get us through about a month. The animals alone are costing us £2,500 a month and that is food, water and heating. That doesn’t cover anything else – vet bills, wages, maintenance, advertising, anything like that."

It costs around £300,000 a year to feed all the animals. Credit: ITV News

For many zoos and wildlife parks, like Porfell and Bristol Zoo, the public are their main source of income.

Bristol Zoo have furloughed 70% of their staff with only key staff, like vets and keepers, still working.

During the Easter holidays, with good weather, the zoo would expect to have between 3000 and 4000 visitors per day.

But with none this year, the zoo is struggling to cover costs.

The zoo is also concerned about animals getting the virus - in particular the gorillas.

Great apes are particularly susceptible to Covid-19. Credit: ITV News

We've increased our precautions. Great apes are much more susceptible to COVID-19 so very early on we started bringing in much higher biosecurity measures like masks and gloves. For the gorillas it's slightly unusual. They have keepers coming in with masks all the time and don't instantly recognise their face.

Nigel Simpson, Head of Animal Collections at Bristol Zoo

The animals at Bristol Zoo cost around £300,000 a year to feed. The zoo has started a fundraising page which has already raised £13,000.

Porfell Wildlife Park has set up a GoFundMe page which Head Keeper Sophie says has been absolutely amazing: "Fingers crossed we get the support we need," she added.

Bristol Zoo has furloughed roughly 190 staff at the zoo. Credit: ITV News