It breaks our hearts to know that the Zoo has come to this.
We have lived and breathed this zoo and enjoyed creating a unique and very special place that anybody could visit, enjoy and learn within. All in the knowledge that we are safeguarding rare and endangered species and looking after them in our rural Devon countryside.
The zoo was started 27 years ago by Danny and Lynn Reynolds (previously the Exmoor Bird Gardens). The whole family moved down from Surrey to help us start this new venture. Lynn’s mum and dad, Danny’s mum and of course Tina who was 3 at the time (she is now grown up and married and starting the next generation to hopefully run the zoo). Unfortunately, Lynn’s dad died 2 years ago aged 92, leaving a huge hole is our lives. He played a major part in the day to day running of the zoo and doing the accounts up until recently. Lynn’s mum helps out and still does when needed, she used to bag up all the bag food we would sell to the visitors so they could feed to the animals, help out with washing up or pricing gift stock - not bad for a 92 year old. Dannys mum (now 86) used to look after the monkey house until 2 years ago when she broke her knee cap. They all live on site and still contribute.
Originally after 6 months being closed, the family hired one member of staff and began the transformation. We have worked hard over the years to make the zoo a haven for many endangered species and we now support the local economy by employing 24 members of staff. With about 50,000 visitors a year, this now looks like it will all end with the coronavirus as we suddenly have no income for the foreseeable future and over 350 animals to care for.
Danny and Lynn gave up a comfortable life in Guildford to live in Devon and re-open the zoo. They had been working closely with a few zoos with some breeding projects like their small monkeys (marmosets and tamarins) plus their parrots. The worked with small zoos like Shaldon Wildlife Trust and Penscynor Wildlife Park and built up a good name with their successful breeding of Amazon monkeys like red bellied, red mantled and emperor tamarins and silvery and black tailed marmosets. They moved to the zoo in 1993 to achieve something more worthwhile with their passion. Disaster struck them in 1994 when they had a major robbery at the zoo losing over 20 marmosets and tamarins and 20 parrots in one night. Unfortunately, wildlife crime was rife at the time and they were targeted like a few zos over the UK. Rumour had it the animals made it South Africa, but none were recovered. They also had a smaller robbery, despite increased security,3 years later of some marmosets. This time the animals were recovered but no-one was prosecuted.
Today the zoo is more than a tourist attraction - it is a way of life for us and all our team and a part of the social fabric of the area. We hope that those of you that have visited over the last few years have got enjoyment and learning out of sharing our animals. Many of you will have grown up visiting here as children and now bring your own children to visit! We are well known for holding rarer and different animals that are seldom seen elsewhere and now house a stunning collection of 10 different cat species. We know that many of you travel many miles just to see some of our rarer species, civets, cacomistles, rusty spotted cats, fanaluka to name but a few.
The zoo has won numerous awards over the years, best small visitor attraction for Devon and the south west. Best family attraction, best educational day out South-west amongst others and now It breaks our hearts to know that the zoo must close. We totally understand why as we need to protect everyone but hope that we will soon be able to welcome you all back to the zoo.
We have strived to make a happy Zoo for our staff and visitors and obviously the animals that are in our care. When you add up the costs of feed and bedding, the heating costs, veterinary care and wages amongst others the zoo requires at least £10K a week to operate. All this comes from you - our supporting visitors. We are reliant on the cashflow from your visit which for us begins at Easter. The zoo will close today at the end of business on the 22nd of March with no sight of it re-opening. This couldn’t happen at a worse time of the year for us when we are at the end of the winter. Everybody in the tourist trade was looking forward to the start of the new season, we have had yet another awful wet winter and the promise of better weather was hopeful. The holiday camps were looking forward to the start of the season and like us have now also had to close. Thankfully for them they do not have the fixed costs of the animals and their welfare that we do.
Exmoor zoo is a passion for wildlife, it is a way of life, 24/7. We have a loyal team working for us who are all working as hard as they can to help the zoo survive, despite knowing that some of them are going to be furloughed. How and when this will happen, we are not sure yet.
We are now part of over 45 breeding programmes nationally and internationally with a new female fishing cat just arriving last week from Olomouc Zoo in the Czech Republic to re-pair Frodo our lonely male. We have achieved the first 2 UK breeding of date palm vultures and white-browed coucals - something we are very proud of. We know that the animals will miss seeing the public, during the winter they are much more active when the visitors are around and respond well to seeing them. We believe that as we are not so busy as some of the major zoos the animals are more relaxed around the public.
We are known for our interactive sessions, we most probably have the most comprehensive range of talks, feeding times and encounter sessions (17 plus extra chalk board talks) daily which are all free and included in the admission price. The zoo has just recently gained charitable status and we were looking forward to promoting this, a very, very positive step for the zoo. This meant that people would be able to donate to the zoo without us having to pay VAT and we could also reclaim some gift aid from our visitors at the entrance. A little extra money to put towards the care of the animals! This was all due to happen on the 6th of April but may not happen now until early summer and only if we can struggle through!
We have set up this go fund page to help contribute towards the welfare and upkeep of the animals here and are trying to be sensible in asking for help. If you feel that you can help in any way, we will be very - very grateful. We are determined to get through this Covid-19 pandemic and safeguard the welfare and the lives of the animals we are responsible for. Give us a thought and if you can help please do.
- Tim Brown
No.1 fundraising platform
More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more
In the unlikely event that something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse has occurred. Learn more
Expert advice, 24/7
Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night! Learn more