Sandwich Wildlife Park will close for good due to the impact of the covid pandemic.
Due to restrictions the park has been closed since November 4 and even though Wingham Wildlife Park – which is owned by the same company – was able to briefly open around the Christmas period in tier 4, Sandwich was unable to follow suit, as much of it is indoors with these areas having had to remain closed during that time.
A statement from the company says animals the Wingham site is not under threat and animals will be moved to that site or rehomed.
The statement adds: “Due to COVID restrictions both sites were only able to open briefly in 2020 compared to a normal season which is a difficult situation for any business, however when your bills continue to mount when you are closed as you cannot furlough all your staff and still need to heat, clean and feed all of your animals it is even more difficult.
Company reserves saved for refurbishment at Wingham also meant they were unable to access the zoo fund by the government.
Parks managing director Tony Binskin said:“We want to be very clear that even as COVID restrictions continue, Wingham Wildlife Park is in a position where we are able to continue to look after our animals, maintain the park and continue the work which we have been carrying out at the park.
“We are very lucky to have a strong team at both sites who can carry out most of our maintenance and growth works in house. This has meant that we have been able to continue working during the lockdown and funds which were earned during the year meant that we were still also able to honour any outside works contracts which we had planned or agreed.
“Wingham Wildlife Park is completely safe, and visitors and fans of the parks can rest assured that we are not going anywhere – and the same can be said for all the animals at Sandwich Wildlife Park as we have several strategies in place to ensure that they all stay safe and healthy.
“One thing which we have always said even in the first lockdown was that no animals would need to be put to sleep while we are closed as a result of COVID restrictions – and that statement remains just as true today.
“Firstly, any animals which can be moved to Wingham Wildlife Park will be moved there.
“Secondly, any animal which we cannot move to Wingham will be found new homes.
“Thirdly, no matter how long it takes to move the animals to new homes, we will continue to staff Sandwich Wildlife Park until the last animal has been moved off the site.
“This has been one of the most difficult decisions which we have ever had to make, and we have not taken it lightly. Every single animal from the ants right through to the crocodiles is being considered very carefully. This is not the end of our story, it’s just us closing a chapter which we can just sadly no longer continue to support permanently.”
The decision about Sandwich Wildlife Park has been made at this time to ensure that the park is not left in a situation where it faces sudden closure a couple of weeks in advance or jeopardizes both parks in the long term.
Homes are being found for many of the animals and people will see individuals such as the Arctic wolves, chameleons, ants and bushbabies move to Wingham Wildlife Park, although the wolf move had already been organised some time before this decision had been made.
Markus Wilder, curator at both sites, added:“We made a conscious decision early enough to ensure that we have the time and resources to find these homes and work with other institutions for any animals which perhaps need a little more specialised care or require special permits and licenses to move.
“There is no doubt that this process is going to take some time, and we have taken this into account with our strategy for moving forward. I would like to reiterate what Mr Binskin has said, which is that Wingham Wildlife Park and the animals at both sites are totally safe.
“Not only do we want to, but we are also required as part of our license to support education, research and conservation. In our effort to continue to do this with projects such as our support of the World Land Trust or native species with our new invertebrate education and conservation exhibit at Wingham Wildlife Park, we are just not in a position to be able to support this level of education and conservation activity at both sites equally.”
The staff who work at the Sandwich site will be moving to Wingham Wildlife Park and no one is being put at risk of redundancy.