A UK zoo has announced it is to close for good thanks to coronavirus.
The owner of Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon, Wild Planet Trust, which also owns Paignton Zoo, has released a statement.
The news comes on the day zoos across England were allowed to reopen for the first time since the end of March.
Living Coasts opened to the public on 14 July 2003, and as of 2011 was being visited by over 100,000 visitors a year
Living Coasts is a coastal zoo owned by South West Environmental Parks as part of the Wild Planet Trust, formerly known as Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, which also includes Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo.
It is a registered charity, and is based around seabirds and other coastal wildlife. The site is covered by a giant aviary which includes several animal enclosures and habitats including an artificial tidal estuary, a penguin beach, a tropical mangrove swamp, and underwater viewing areas.
Living Coasts is Britain’s only coastal zoo.] It is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
WCT saidsays: “It is with regret that Wild Planet Trust has to announce that it will not be re-opening 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 twenty 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.
“All 44 staff at Living Coasts have been placed at risk of redundancy. This will be considered within the context of the wider restructuring of the Trust’s zoos, and potential redundancies at their other sites (Paignton Zoo and Newquay Zoo).
The aviary, which cost £7 million to build, is 19 metres (62 ft) at its highest point and has a total volume of 1.8 million cubic feet (51,000 m3). This free flying enclosure is home to mammals and birds including South American fur seals, African penguins, macaroni penguins, sea ducks, pied avocet, redshanks, black-necked stilts, ruffs, and terns.
The aviary was the first open-air auk exhibit in the world, and has won a design award. It was also the first place in the U.K to breed pigeon guillemots, common guillemots and tufted puffins. Also found in the auk enclosure are red legged kittiwakes and red billed choughs.