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£20 will feed a spider monkey for a day - how you can help save Colchester Zoo’s animals

PUBLISHED: 19:00 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:43 13 May 2020

One of the zoo's red pandas alongside a handmade rainbow card Picture: Colchester Zoo

One of the zoo's red pandas alongside a handmade rainbow card Picture: Colchester Zoo

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The director of one of the UK’s biggest zoos reflects on the current crisis and shares how the public can help its animals survive lockdown

Tiga and his 'stay home' message Picture: Colchester ZooTiga and his 'stay home' message Picture: Colchester Zoo

Having been a staple tourist attraction in East Anglia since its opening in 1963, Colchester Zoo is one of the region’s biggest and best days out.

Home to 220 species and set across 60 acres of parkland and lakes, Colchester Zoo welcomes in an average one million customers over the course of a year.

With the zoo sadly having closed its doors to the public due to the Government-enforced lockdown, Colchester Zoo explains what’s going on behind the scenes, how the animals are being cared for, and what you can do to help in the meantime.

Colchester Zoo’s director Dr Dominique Tropeano said: “We closed our doors to the public prior to the date imposed on us, as we simply could not maintain the social distancing required.

One of the latest arrivals at Colchester Zoo - a baby cheetah Picture: Colchester ZooOne of the latest arrivals at Colchester Zoo - a baby cheetah Picture: Colchester Zoo

“To us it made sense, and we would not have wanted to do anything else but to comply and be sensible in the face of this destructive virus,” he continued.

The staff who keep the cogs turning at Colchester Zoo are working hard to ensure that it’s kept running as smooth as possible. Dr Tropeano said: “We have a very dedicated and adaptable bunch of keepers that while young, have a good experience. Most of them started their profession at Colchester, and we know our standards are some of the best anywhere. They enjoy playing their part in the additional video work, still smiling, and still being cheerful.”

So what’s been different at the zoo over the past month? Not much, according to Dr Tropeano. “Their daily routine has not changed that much, as they still have to do all of their animal care duties as they would if we were open,” he said. “Their care and management of the animals hasn’t changed – we continue to provide the highest level of care to the animals.

“The only slight change is that keepers don’t have the visitor experiences and talks to do while we are closed, although as mentioned, many are recording videos for our social media pages to keep the public engaged, educated about the animals and keeping them up to date with what’s going on at the zoo.”

One of the keepers taking good care of the zoo's lemurs Picture: Colchester ZooOne of the keepers taking good care of the zoo's lemurs Picture: Colchester Zoo

Those who’ve been keeping up with the zoo on social media may have seen some of its latest arrivals – with cheetah Sia having given birth to five healthy cubs, and Ruth the tamandua birthing a healthy baby which is yet to be sexed. But what about any animals who might be brought in from other zoos? “We have had many arrivals, in term of birth, but we don’t expect many new arrivals or departures. Animal movement in this country is still allowed, but only if really necessary,” explains Dr Tropeano. “But of course, you have to follow animal movement regulations.”

Working behind the scenes, the zoo is already planning for its long-awaited reopening, whenever that may be. “At first it sounds like a simple document, but in effect it is extremely complicated and complex. It is very much about managing people, complying with the regulations, thinking about health and safety, including PPE, and what is it we can achieve,” Dr Tropeano said.

“Without a doubt we will have to limit the number of people allowed in the park unless restrictions are removed – we have to ensure both visitors and staff are safe.

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide all of our daily events because of the safety aspect. At this stage we are not sure if we will be able to have all our seasonal events,” Dr Tropeano added.

The zoo's meerkats Picture: Colchester ZooThe zoo's meerkats Picture: Colchester Zoo

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While the zoo remains closed, there are many ways that readers can donate to help keep the zoo afloat in the meantime.

“Those who would like to donate to the Zoo Operating Fund can do so via our website,” Dr Tropeano explains. “Alternatively, you can make a bank transfer if you would prefer. We have detailed the bank account information on our website, and there have been many who have donated this way.

“Donations into the Zoo Operating Fund via our website is the best way for the public to support the zoo during this time of crisis.”

The zoo's Animal Care Team working hard to look after the animals Picture: Colchester ZooThe zoo's Animal Care Team working hard to look after the animals Picture: Colchester Zoo

Such donations will go towards animals needs such as food and veterinary fees, as well as staff costs.

The zoo has also made the decision not to sell any of its dated products for the time being. It is however selling gift vouchers which customers can use towards Colchester Zoo products once it has reopened.

Dr Tropeano added: “We also have started to sell our new Top Trumps pack online which has gone down very well so far. All of the income from monetary gift vouchers and Top Trumps are put towards our Zoo Operating Fund.”

Many fans of Colchester Zoo have even been organising their own fundraisers on behalf of the zoo. Dr Tropeano said: “Some people have kindly been setting up third party fundraisers. However, we do not receive the money straight away via these sites and some take a commission, therefore we would encourage people to donate via our website wherever possible.”

Lottie the white rhino calf picture: Libby PageLottie the white rhino calf picture: Libby Page

He added: “If you would like to set up a crowd funding page, we’d advise using GoFundMe, as you can then allocate Colchester Zoo as the beneficiary of the funds when the money is withdrawn.”

For more information about how donations help Colchester Zoo and to make your own, click here to visit the website.

Find out how far your donations can go at Colchester Zoo

£10 will buy the zoo almost 10KG of leeks which are enjoyed by a variety of species

£20 will feed a Spider monkey for a day

£30 can buy enough fish to feed a sealion for a day

£115 can feed one of the zoos African elephants for a day!


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