A ZOO desperate to survive the coronvirus pandemic has launched an urgent appeal for donations so it can continue to care for its animals.

The Welsh Mountain zoo, which opened in Colwyn Bay in 1963, faces an uncertain future if it can’t keep vital funds coming in.

Having furloughed half its staff, and suspended all day-to-day repairs and improvements - apart from those essential to the welfare of the animals - the site is costing more than £118,000 a month to run.

Running costs include salaries of keepers - all who remain working so the zoo can maintain its high standards of animal husbandry, welfare and security - as well as food, animal house heating, veterinary care and a small admin team.

The cost of animal food alone is £11,800 per month.

Speaking frank to the Pioneer, Nick Jackson, director at the zoo, admitted if the zoo runs out of money, decisions will have to be made about animals where alternative homes cannot be found.

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“This is a dreadful prospect. Finding new homes will be seriously impeded, if not completely prevented, by the Covid-19 crisis.

“We have real concerns about the survival of the Zoo.

“As a responsible charity we have held some money in reserve for emergencies.

“With past experience of diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease our Trustees’ have felt it wise to hold some funds to keep going if the zoo had to close for a short period.

“If we cannot reopen to the public soon, when this money runs out we will be in desperate trouble.

"We are applying for UK and Welsh Government funding support, but as yet none has been provided.

“It is therefore critically important we get support from everyone who believes, as we do, that the Welsh Mountain Zoo - National Zoo of Wales, has an important role to plan in the cultural, educational and environmental life of Wales. And, of course, has concern for the welfare and survival of our wonderful animals.”

The Welsh Mountain Zoo, home to more than 140 species, plays an important role in terms of conservation locally and on a global scale.

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Tuppence the chimp, was born in Chester Zoo but was rejected by her mother and came to live with Welsh Mountain Zoo owner Nick Jackson and his family for the first two years of her life where she was hand reared

For more than 50 years, the zoo has undertaken the rescue and rehabilitation of grey and harbour seals. 

Mr Jackson said this work is now threatened by the current crisis.

“If we haven’t had some major funding from external sources or been allowed to re-open to visitors by the middle of July we will be in serious trouble,” he added.

“The only income at the moment is from our public fundraising campaign - £12,624 as of today’s date. This support from our friends and well-wishers is gratefully received and we sincerely hope it will continue.”

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A seal, that recovered at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, is released back into the sea at Penrhyn Bay. KR240119c.

This is the first time, in the zoo’s 57-year history, that it has had to close its gates for a prolonged period.

“We have contributed to the conservation of endangered species and the welfare of animals and people for generations," Mr Jackson added.

"The funding that sustains us not only keeps the zoo going but enables us to support field conservation projects in this country and abroad – looking after animals and their habitats such as snow leopards, red pandas, lemurs, pine martens and red squirrels."

The zoo's £1million ‘Silk Road’ snow leopard project is half built and half paid for.

Mr Jackson said the zoo had committed to the expenditure before Covid-19 struck and now 'cannot avoid this'.

"We need all the funding support we can get to make sure there is still a zoo to sustain these magnificent animals in their wonderful new home," he said.

The zoo normally maintains 34 permanent full-time staff, plus part-time and seasonal.

A total of 17 staff have been furloughed.

For those remaining on site, 'rigorous' biosecurity measures have been instigated across the keeping team including the use of personal protection equipment, strict hygiene measures and social distancing.

Animal care staff have been split into two separate teams. The teams do not share facilities and avoid contact, to help reduce cross infection should Covid-19 arrive in the Zoo.

Mr Jackson added: "Through April we have had the most wonderful spring weather and the zoo has looked beautiful but a zoo with no visitors is a zoo with no income. However beautiful it may be, we know it cannot be sustained without visitors.

"The zoo is a major part of the cultural life of North Wales. It has been a source of pleasure, education and enlightenment for generations of people.

“Generating over £2million into the economy each year, the zoo is the livelihood of many people and their families.

“The management and staff, guided by a supportive Board of Trustees, have dedicated their lives to the development of the zoo and its role in conservation, education, research, recreation and animal welfare.

“For the staff to lose their livelihoods will be hard enough, but to lose the zoo and the animals they have worked so hard to sustain will be devastating.”

To donate, visit www.welshmountainzoo.org or click here.