Devon wildlife park needs help to feed its animals

PUBLISHED: 12:43 15 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:42 15 July 2020

You can get up close with the animals, from the exotic to the cute and cuddly. Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife Park

You can get up close with the animals, from the exotic to the cute and cuddly. Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife Park

Archant

From meerkats to boa constrictors, Axe Valley Wildlife Park has many mouths to feed - and coronavirus has knocked its finances for six

You can get up close with the animals, from the exotic to the cute and cuddly. Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife ParkYou can get up close with the animals, from the exotic to the cute and cuddly. Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife Park

Axe Valley Wildlife Park on the Dorset/Devon border is home to a wide variety of animals, from 30 snakes (including Davina, the 8ft boa constrictor) and spiders in the warm rooms to a zebra, meerkats, ring tailed lemurs, Eurasian Lynx, cranes, flamingos, peacocks and resident favourite Archie the Armadillo.

But with the average bill for feeding and caring for the animals coming in at around £2,000 a week, lockdown left the family-run attraction on the brink of uncertainty.

Owners Andrew and Jayne Collier are former dairy farmers who diversified, building the park from scratch in the last 15 years. They say: “Having been closed all winter we had high hopes for a successful 2020 before Covid-19 completely ruined this prospect.

“We closed our doors to the public in order to prevent further spread of this horrible virus but we were very scared for the future of our park and the animals that live here. The wet winter had already taken its toll with the need for more frequent bedding changes and supplementary foods to substitute for the lack of grass, and these sorts of conditions eat into the budget. Our season runs from spring to autumn and this is when we have to earn enough to see us through the winter.”

You can get up close with the animals, from the exotic to the cute and cuddly. Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife ParkYou can get up close with the animals, from the exotic to the cute and cuddly. Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife Park

Have you tried these amazing animal experiences in Devon?

The average bill for feeding and caring for the animals coming in at around £2,000 a week.  Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife ParkThe average bill for feeding and caring for the animals coming in at around £2,000 a week. Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife Park

While many attractions have suffered during lockdown, zoos have been particularly vulnerable thanks to non-negotiable running costs – you can’t furlough the animals.

Andrew and Jayne launched a Go Fund Me page which has so far reached half of its £15,000 target, and all money raised will help them to feed their beloved collection in this uncertain time.

Andrew says: “If anyone can help us - however big or small - now would be the time to do it and we would be truly grateful. We will not go down without a fight!”

The couple have always reinvested every penny they earn into improving the park, which is a popular day out for both local and visiting families, offering up-close education opportunities for children and a relaxed environment for meeting the animals.

The average bill for feeding and caring for the animals coming in at around £2,000 a week.  Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife ParkThe average bill for feeding and caring for the animals coming in at around £2,000 a week. Photo: Axe Valley Wildlife Park

The response to their situation from local people has been invaluable, with farm shops bringing items they haven’t sold, surrounding villages hosting collection bins outside their shops and pubs, and people bringing their allotment veg to help feed the animals. An Amazon wish list hosted on their Facebook page allows benefactors to choose specific items to be delivered direct to the animals. The park re-opened in early July with social distancing in place and two daily ticketed sessions at 10-1pm and 1-5pm. But the intimate nature of this hidden gem means you can get up close with the animals, from the exotic to the cute and cuddly. The A-Z of wildlife runs from alpacas to zebras, with a fascinating range that spans mongoose, meerkats, monkeys and porcupines to Frilled Lizards and Burrowing Owls, alongside the majestic free roaming peacocks.

Donate via the Go Fund Me page.

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