Published: 18:13, 01 June 2020
| Updated: 15:27, 02 June 2020
The owners of a Kent wildlife park say they are bitterly disappointed to be forced to remain closed following a last-minute decision by the Government to keep zoos locked down.
Bosses at Wildwood Trust at Herne near Canterbury were looking forward to welcoming back visitors to the 40-acre site on Friday, following the relaxation in rules.
But the decision to block their reopening has come a huge blow to the park which had been gearing up to welcome visitors, with extensive social-distancing measures in place.
"It is such a blow to us and doesn’t seem fair or logical when botanical gardens and indoor shops will be able to open," said general director Paul Whitfield.
The park is home to a wide range of endangered British species, including those which used to roam the countryside, including bears, wolves, wild boar and lynx.
Mr Whitfield says caring for the animals alone cost £11,000 a week and the loss of income during the enforced closure has led to "grave financial challenges".
"We have planned our reopening carefully and invested funds we really do not have at the moment to be able to open safely. It honestly doesn’t make any sense to me that we have to remain closed," he said.
"Lockdown has meant months of lost revenue and now another month of lost income is a real blow at what is usually the park’s busiest time of year.
"As it stands now, the earliest possible date for reopening the park to the public looks to be July 4 but we still do not know that for certain.
"Despite the amazing generosity of our supporters, the fact is that this closure will really hurt us financially.
"The care of the animals is my highest priority and no matter what we will take care of them all."
Bosses at Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Park say they are preparing to reopen to visitors on July 4 which the Government has indicated will be the date.
"There is ample space for guests to visit and socially distance themselves from other guests while viewing the animals and helping the charity to recover some of the lost income to the coronavirus crisis," said a spokesman.
They also claim their parks differ from others in Kent due to their size and space for visitors.
Writing on its Facebook page, bosses at Wingham Wildlife Park say they are also "tentatively" looking forward to re-opening on July 4.
"We do not have a confirmed re-opening date at the moment,however we are ready to and will work within government guidelines."
More by this authorGerry Warren
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