Published: 14:45, 25 January 2021
| Updated: 16:39, 25 January 2021
Sandwich Wildlife Park has been forced to close due to the impact of coronavirus.
The park, which was bought by Wingham Wildlife Park in 2017, was temporarily closed on November 4 due to lockdown restrictions.
Today, bosses confirmed it would close permanently. A statement said: "Due to Covid restrictions both sites were only able to open briefly in 2020 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.
"This is even more so the case if that business runs two separate sites."
The Arctic wolves, chameleons, ants and bushbabies will move to Wingham Wildlife Park and new homes will be found for any animals that can't also be moved.
Staff will continue to work at the site until all animals have places to go and then transfer to Wingham. No one has lost their job due to the decision.
Tony Binskin, the managing director of the parks, 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.
"Both as a business and personal decision, this has been an incredibly difficult one..."
"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 has been made now so they have plenty of time to prepare for the closure.
Mr Binskin added: “We have enough reserves to stop all work at both sites and continue to scrape both parks along without any progress being made.
"However both parks have areas which need to be developed and maintained to function not only as places which care for animals but also for the public to learn about animals or to support conservation, and sadly the past year's worth of on and off Covid restrictions and closures have meant that we are simply not in a position to be able to continue to maintain both sites.
"Both as a business and personal decision, this has been an incredibly difficult one for the whole management team to make and we just hope that the public know us well enough to know that it has been a decision made for the wellbeing of the animals and that everyone will continue to be cared for.”
Markus Wilder, the 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 licences 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."