Pub's zoo to open again

A popular zoo, threatened with closure because of the coronavirus lockdown, is reopening on Monday, thanks to a massive fundraising campaign. Andy Cowell, who manages the Fenn Bell Conservation Project at St Mary Hoo near Rochester, had feared he might be forced to have his animals put down because he could not afford the thousands of pounds to keep them safe and well.

Andy and Kelly Cowell are looking forward to re-opening the zoo

Andy, who also runs the neighbouring Fenn Bell pub with wife Kelly, set an initial fundraising target of GBP10,000. But, following a KentOnline article and a GoFundMe page set up by a well-wisher, the amount snowballed to GBP45,000 in a week.

Andy was at first reluctant to appeal for donations towards the running costs of Medway's first licensed zoo, which now has more than 100 animals.

He said at the time: "We're not beggars, we work extremely hard, but we've been put in this position." He described the response as "amazing" and was "extremely humbled" by the scores of donations posted to him.

Andy Cowell with the lemurs in their enclosure

Andy said on the zoo Facebook page: "We can't wait to open our doors and welcome you all back. I know that things are not quite the same at the moment, but I hope that you will support us as we take our first steps back.

"During the lockdown, we have had the opportunity to complete some projects. We now have our new fishing cat enclosure, as well as our bobcat and Binturongs (bearcats). "Once again, we can't thank you enough for all your support while we were in lockdown.

Without your support, we would have lost our zoo."

Visitors must book in advance online on the website here. Tickets cost GBP5 per person, children under two go free but there are no concessions at this stage. The zoo is open seven days a week, with two sessions - 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm.

Andy Cowell with Basil the Kote

The safari truck and play equipment will not be available, but toilets will be open.

There will be a limit on numbers to allow more room for social distancing.

There will also be a one-way system and sanitiser stations.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway


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