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Owner offers shares in Fenn Bell Zoo, St Mary Hoo near Rochester


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Have you ever wanted to own a stake in a pub and a zoo?

Well now is your chance as the Fenn Bell Conservation Project at St Mary Hoo, near Rochester is looking for investors to buy shares in its future.

Andy Cowell and his lemurs at the Fenn Bell Inn
Andy Cowell and his lemurs at the Fenn Bell Inn

Owners Andy and Kelly Cowell started their own mini zoo as a pet project six years ago in the garden of the pub they run together.

It has since grown to more than 100 animals – ranging from cats and chickens to pigs and meerkats – and they have obtained a licence to become Medway's first licensed zoo.

But their venture hit troubled waters when lockdown meant the forced closure of both their pub and zoo, prompting fears many of the animals would have to be euthanized in the face of a lack of funds.

The owners reluctantly set up a fundraiser to plea for help – and with a little help from a KentOnline article donations snowballed to more than £45,000 in a week .

Andy described the response as "amazing" and was "extremely humbled" by the scores of donations posted to him which meant the project could restart in June.

Andy Cowell, owner of The Fenn Bell Zoo and pub in St Mary Hoo, Rochester, thanked the public for the generosity
Andy Cowell, owner of The Fenn Bell Zoo and pub in St Mary Hoo, Rochester, thanked the public for the generosity

However, the ongoing effect of the pandemic has meant the future of the zoo is not secure and the Andy has been trying to devise creative ways to survive.

That's when he came up with the idea to sell shares in the project.

The scheme, called Business with Heart, was launched earlier this week and aims to help zoos withstand the pandemic, says Andy.

He wrote in a Facebook post promoting his idea: "We have been building the zoo for six years now and despite all the battles on the way, we achieved an incredible amount of work.

"This has been down to hard work, determination and the amazing team of staff we have working here. These are not just paid staff but volunteers as well.

"The truth is even with all the hard work and good will, it will only take us so far and we have reached that ceiling."

The Lemurs enclosure at the Fenn Bell Inn, St Mary Hoo. Picture: Chris Davey
The Lemurs enclosure at the Fenn Bell Inn, St Mary Hoo. Picture: Chris Davey

Andy went on to state that in order to survive and "build the future I have talked about, we need investment".

He added: "We are looking to invest and build a brighter future for our animals and you our supporters.

"We can't do that without you. Your support has always been our strength and now you will have a chance to not only back our plans, further our education and conservation, but get a return on your investment."

Since launching the scheme people have already registered for as many as 200 shares, he said.

Andy also pledged to donate all profits straight back into its work.

To register your interest or find out more about the scheme click here .

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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