HUNDREDS of animals including penguins, seals and ducks have been left without a home after a zoo in Devon announced its closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon, is being forced to close after 20 years due to the three-month nationwide lockdown. Owners Wild Planet Trust said a fall in ticket sales and soaring maintenance costs had also led to its regretful decision to shut its doors. The move means all its resident animals are now looking for new homes.
The trust said it will work to rehome the creatures and avoid at all costs having to euthanise them.
A wide range of animals live at the zoo including South American fur seals, African penguins, Macaroni penguins, redshanks, sea ducks, black-necked stilts, ruffs, and terns.
In a statement posted on its website, the zoo said staff members have also been affected by the permanent closure.
All 44 workers are now “at risk of redundancy”.
The trust said: “It is with regret that Wild Planet Trust has to announce that it will not be reopening Living Coasts as a visitor attraction following its closure during the current global coronavirus pandemic.
“Falling visitor numbers and the forced closure of all its zoos due to COVID-19 has meant that it has had to look at its cost base and make efficiencies.
“After nearly 20 years of operation the site also needed substantial maintenance that the Trust is no longer in a position to afford.
“The next stage is to find homes for the animals.
“Living Coasts is part of a world-wide network of zoos and aquariums and we will be looking for homes for the animals within them once movement restrictions have been lifted.
“Most of the animals kept at Living Coasts are marine species that will need specialist facilities.
“Living Coast is confident that good new homes for the animals will be found, but at present it is unclear how long this process may take.”
Loyal customers took to social media to express their disappointment.
One man said: “Really sad news.
“My grandson who is autistic loved visiting, loved the movement of the fish and the seals etc.”
Another said: “It’s such a shame.
“We visited when we were staying in Brixham.
“I just hope they are able to open up areas at Paignton Zoo so they can rehome most of the animals, especially the penguins.”
Living Coasts said the welfare of its animals remains its priority.
It said if suitable homes cannot be found “we may need to the make the difficult decision to euthanise”.
However, it added that “as things stand, we do not anticipate that this is a likely scenario.”