THE founder of a West Oxfordshire zoo has said it could take years to recover from the impact of coronavirus, but will make sure it continues, as well as the survival of its work.

Due to the pandemic, Crocodiles of the World in Brize Norton has been forced to close, whilst the majority of staff at the zoo have been furloughed, aside from essential zookeepers.

That has led to the zoo starting a Crowdfunder in the hope to raise £35,000 to continue its conservation work.

So far, the zoo has raised over £3,500 - just above 10 per cent of its target.

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Founder Shaun Foggett said: “This scenario has never been planned for, I don’t think many businesses plan for a global pandemic.

“We’d just come through the quietest time of the year in autumn and winter and was coming into peak season and what should be a key time for visitors, and the zoo had to close.

“There’s so much uncertainty and so much is unknown so we don’t know when we’ll be able to have people together in close proximity.

“The zookeepers however are doing a brilliant job keeping all the animals happy and healthy.

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“It could take years to recover from this but I will make sure the zoo continues as well as the survival of its work.

“The key for the zoo is to continue with its conservation work, especially in areas that the public might not necessarily know about.”

For example, Mr Foggett pointed out that there are less than 100 Chinese alligators left in the wild and the attempts to breed them at Crocodiles of the World are the only conservation efforts for this species in the UK.

Another knock on effect of Covid-19 is the impact on other organisations that received donations from zookeeper experience days, for example.

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“The big cost is electricity, temperatures have to be tropical at 28 degrees and above so these heating costs are huge,” Mr Foggett added.

“The fundraising is to cover the day to day running of the zoo and then the conservation work that goes on.”

To exemplify the costs of the running the zoo, £100 will help buy a replacement heater or filter for an enclosure.

“The big crocodiles can make quite a mess through their destructive behaviour so £75 is what is needed to help maintain one of these enclosures,” said Mr Foggett.

“A lot of people are in a hard situation but if you enjoyed coming to the zoo and can spare a few pounds then it really does go straight to the zoo.

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“Every little bit genuinely helps.

“We will be making a plaque with all the names of people who have donated.”

With images across the world of animals in zoos missing interaction with humans, Mr Foggett joked that the meerkats at Crocodiles of the World are ‘probably less alert with less planes at Brize at the moment’.

One particular animal that has won the hearts of staff at the zoo is bearded dragon Boris, who was rescued by staff from a nearby field over the Easter weekend.

Despite efforts from this paper and the zoo itself, an owner for Boris has not come forward and will now become part of the furniture at the zoo.

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Mr Foggett said: “Boris was in very good condition when we found him and he looked like a well loved pet, so we expected someone to come forward.

“He’s doing very well and will join the zoo when we reopen.

“He’ll serve as a timely reminder of when the zoo was closed.”

Crocodiles of the World is home to 19 of the 24 crocodile species, including critically endangered species.

The zoo’s registered charity, The Foundation, has run the zoo since it opened in 2011.

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