Wild Planet Trust is the Devon-based charity that runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, plus several nature reserves in Devon. While 2019 was not a great year for the charity, there are, says Trust boss Simon Tonge, some reasons for optimism:
“Last year was not the best for visitor numbers, though we still saw 700,000 people come to our three zoo sites. And it was the end of an era – Duchess, the last elephant in the South West of England, died.
“On the plus side, 2019 saw the lifting of TB restrictions at Paignton Zoo. Although it has been hard working getting going again, we’ve now welcomed new zebras, a red panda and a pair of gentle lemurs - and we’re looking forward to more arrivals soon.”
The charity received some sizeable legacies in 2019, along with more than £94,000 in grants and donations. Businesses, especially local firms, continue to support vital conservation work, including Bays Brewery and others.
The new Changing Places accessible toilet at Paignton Zoo, following the one installed at Newquay Zoo in early 2019, means more people with particular needs can visit the site.
Simon again: “We aim to create a mixed species exhibit of giraffe, zebra, ostrich and antelope at Paignton Zoo. There should be some alterations to the lion and macaque enclosures at Newquay Zoo – and at Living Coasts we’re planning changes to way we house our penguins to address issues brought on by climate change.”
On the retail front, the Trust is hoping to launch new products made using recycled plastic as manufacturers hurry to catch up with the demands of the public and of environmental bodies like Wild Planet Trust, who have been calling for greener products for years.
The centrepiece of 2020 at Paignton Zoo will be the Great Big Brick Safari, with amazing model animals placed all over the site.
“I hope 2020 will be a year of conservation, campaigns, education and science,” says Simon. “I’m very proud of all the conservation work we do, both in this country and overseas.” This ranges from funding anti-poaching patrols in the East African highlands to engaging with local people on Sulawesi island, Indonesia.
“Each of our sites uses zoo expertise to support practical conservation work on the ground. Newquay Zoo is a key player in the conservation of Owston’s civets, Living Coasts is leading on local work to protect and enhance Torbay’s seagrass meadows and Paignton Zoo lends its experience to many projects, including crayfish in the UK and the Mauritius pink pigeon.
“Whatever we do, our biggest asset is our people. All three zoos have dedicated staff and volunteers who bring a huge amount of expertise and enthusiasm.”