Zookeeper Could Be Forced To Put Some Animals Down Amid Lockdown
A zookeeper has admitted that he may have to let his animals starve or slaughter them as he struggles to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.
Andy Cowell runs the Fenn Bell Conservation Project in Kent, which is home to 120 animals and 40 different species, including marmoset monkeys.
But with lockdown forcing the centre to close and running costs of £2,500 a week, the 51-year-old has had to pump £6,000 of his own money into keeping it going while relying on donations from the public to help pay the £1,000 weekly food bill.
And if the zoo goes on much longer without proper funding, Andy says he may have to take drastic action.
He said: "I've had so many sleepless nights over the last few weeks, trying to come up with a way to keep the zoo running without visitor donations, ticket sales or the pub and restaurant open.
"We've had to make a plan and may have to make the difficult decision to euthanise some of the animals to give the rest a chance.
"It's that or they starve."
If Andy has to cull the animals at Fenn Bell, he says he already knows which would be first.
He explained: "Racoons are classed as invasive species here in the UK, so unfortunately they would have to go first. But it's not something I ever wish to do.
"Other zoos have stayed quiet during this crisis, but I have broken ranks and asked for help. I am not prepared to sit here and watch everything go down the pan. It will not beat us.
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"I don't want to be sitting there at the end having to say I've put down some of my animals because of the coronavirus."
Andy runs the Fenn Bell with his wife, Kelly, and daughter, Sydnee. Together they work to train animal management students, as well as schools to foster the next generation of 'zookeepers and conservation warriors'.
If the centre survives the lockdown, it's Andy's ambition to open a new conservation area to breed and release rare animals such as red squirrels back into the wild.
So far Andy has received £6,000 in donations to a GoFundMe page he set up to help keep the centre open. However, that's still around £4,000 off what's needed.
The struggling animal lover has thanked the group of individuals and businesses that have donated to the cause, but has now made a desperate plea to followers on Facebook, asking them to dig deep.
He wrote: "Around 18,000 saw the post, and I just thought, if each of those people gave a pound, just a pound then we'd have enough money to last us until June at least.
"We don't want masses of money from a few people. If many could give a little, then just maybe we could make this through to the other side."
He added: "Regardless of what we manage to raise, if we reopen when all of this is over, we'll open on the first weekend for free, to say thank you to everyone who's helped and donated."
Featured Image Credit: SWNS