Hope springs for Somerset zoo

A Somerset zoo that has closed its doors during the coronavirus outbreak has secured a six-figure funding package to care for its animals during the lockdown.

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Read time: 5 mins      Added: 02/04/2020

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, closed its doors on March 21 but was facing substantial costs to keep more than 1,000 animals who live there healthy and happy.

The pressure was even greater because the zoo was approaching its busiest and most profitable time of the year.

But support from Lloyds Bank means it can now afford to keep a staff of 20 specialist keepers employed through the lockdown period to look after the animals, including giraffes, lions, tigers, rhinos and African elephants.

Managing director Larry Bush said: "It's been a very emotional week for everybody. We've had to ask non-essential staff to go home on furlough, retaining a skeleton team of around 20.

"Some of our catering suppliers donated fruit and veg that would otherwise have been delivered to local hotels and restaurants. And the public have shown their support through our Facebook page. However, running a zoo is a huge undertaking and we were really concerned about maintaining the safety and welfare of our animals."

Larry contacted Lloyds Bank for support and within 24 hours secured a £300,000 package to keep the zoo going.

He said: "We've banked with Lloyds for the entire 66 years that we've been on this site. The team were very clear that the bank would support us through this crisis and it gave us a real boost that they understand the challenge we're facing.

"This package gives us the breathing space we need right now, and we're already talking about further financial backing through the government's Coronavirus Business Loan Interruption Scheme."

While the family-owned zoo, which is home to more than one hundred species of animals, remains closed, keepers will be posting regular updates from the animals on social media.

Last week it welcomed a baby female zebra, which the team decided to name Hope as a symbol of their positive outlook in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

The zoo was opened by Anthony and Christina Bush in 1999 and typically welcomes more than 200,000 visitors a year, with 55 full-time staff.

Neil Wright, agricultural relationship manager for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: "Noah's Ark Zoo Farm is a thriving business and a much-loved destination for families from across the region.

"With our support, I'm sure that the zoo and all its staff will make it through this testing time and will be welcoming visitors once again as soon as it is safe.

"We're working closely with customers across the region to offer support in managing their cash flow. This includes arrangement fee free overdrafts, capital repayment holidays on loans for businesses that have been severely affected, and the Coronavirus Business Loan Interruption Scheme to ensure the continued provision of finance to UK businesses."

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