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Three months of closure pushed the UK’s biggest charity zoo to the edge of extinction, which triggered 130,000 donors and 1,300 fundraisers from 90 countries to step up and help save Chester Zoo from closing its doors forever.
From running challenges and bake sales to head shaves and virtual mountain climbs, supporters raised an incredible £3m when Chester Zoo launched the ‘Save Our Zoo’ campaign after lockdown left a £5.5m hole in the charity’s finances.
“Although the zoo was able to reopen, which is vital to our future survival, there’s still a long way to go before we’re fully back on track. Our closure due to the pandemic has left a huge £5.5m scar in our finances, so there is no denying that there will be some very challenging times ahead for this great charity zoo.
“This has been one of the worst crises in the zoo’s history, but our hearts have been warmed by seeing the endless kindness, love and support flood in from our supporters. We’ve seen whole communities and individuals from all walks of life come together with one common goal – to help save our zoo.
“We’re so incredibly grateful to our wonderful supporters who have and continue to fundraise for us – taking on all manner of weird, wonderful, and remarkable challenges. We’re truly overwhelmed by the kindness that’s being shown to us when times are hard for everyone, not just us. Each and every fundraiser is absolutely crucial to us – helping to make sure we have a future in our mission to prevent extinction.”
With revenue from visitors making up 97% of the zoo’s income, the long period of closure has had a devastating impact on the future of the UK’s most visited zoo.
It costs £465,000 a month just to care for the zoo’s 35,000 animals, with additional outgoings to keep the zoo ticking over, the global conservation projects and scientific research being carry out, the zoo says it needs £1.6m a month just to keep going.
Six-year-old Jimmy Roose from Mold was devastated to learn about the zoo’s difficulty and was determined to do something about it. He set out to complete a marathon run of 26 miles around Mold, running a mile a day throughout June to help save the zoo he has loved ever since his first visit as a baby.
In just 19 days, Jimmy finished his 26 miles and smashed his target of £500, raising an incredible £4,690.
For his penultimate mile, two local Mold residents and Chester Zoo employees, joined Jimmy dressed as a gorilla and a tiger.
“What Jimmy has done for the zoo is amazing and living so locally to me made me feel even more proud of his achievement.”
Many other supporters took up gruelling running challenges to raise money for the zoo. Salford Teaching Assistant, Brendan Rendall, ran an epic 31 marathons in inflatable animal costumes, raising over £12,300 for the conservation charity.
The 41-year old ran a half marathon every day in June, a marathon every day in July, then pounded the pavements from Salford to Chester Zoo in August. Brendan ran a total of 1,204 miles in soaring temperatures and torrential downpours dressed as a penguin, rhino and two-metre tall giraffe.
But he didn’t stop there. When the second lockdown was announced, Brendan dusted off his animal costumes and began his second challenge of running 10km every day from 7 November 2020 to 31 January 2021.
“The zoo is very close to my heart. I’ve been working with children with special education needs for the last 12 years and have taken them to the zoo many times and they’ve absolutely loved it, as have I!
“When I heard about the zoo’s plight due to the coronavirus pandemic and saw it had launched its urgent Save Our Zoo campaign, I had to do something to help. I decided to test myself and take on this fancy dress running challenge. With the year we’re all experiencing so far, I just wanted to do something fun, make people laugh, smile and inspire them to donate.”
Sadly, Brendan caught COVID-19 during his second challenge and has had to pause his running. He’s hoping to re-start in the New Year.
Seven-year old Layla Powell sprang into action to help save the zoo she’s loved since a baby when she heard of their struggles. Layla and six school friends decided to climb the height of Everest using the stairs at home during lockdown to raise vital funds for the zoo. The group climbed a staggering 8,848m between them, raising an astounding £3,330.
“Layla and her friends were so excited when they had the idea to climb to the top of Everest by climbing their stairs at home, which is a huge challenge for seven children aged between six and nine. They were so passionate about it – one girl even climbed her stairs 100 times on day one!
“Lockdown has been difficult for everyone to get through, but with the girls not being able to meet up and see each other, this challenge has really made them feel like they were doing something fun together. They showed real team work and really kept each other going, it definitely helped take their mind off everything that was going on at the time.
“We all absolutely love the zoo and the vital conservation work it does and are so happy to have been able to raise so much for them. I’m so proud of what the girls have achieved.”
Art director, Emily Chrimes, felt very frustrated with the lack of things to do during lockdown/ The 24 year old channelled her creative energy to create an animal-themed mindful colouring book to support the zoo in the wake of the pandemic.
“It’s been a tough year for our families and our staff, as well as Chester Zoo.
“I am so thrilled to see how quickly we surpassed our targets and want to say a huge well done to our staff, children and their families for such a successful combined effort throughout this campaign. We know how much Chester Zoo means to us our staff and families and this is evident in their actions.
“The animal kingdom and their survival, or threatened extinction, can teach all of us a thing or two about sustainability and environmental responsibilities. We believe children should learn the importance of giving and experience the wonderful feelings that it can instil to do something for the good of others.
“But overall, we encourage learning through play and what better way to encourage our children to take an interest in the world around them.”
Whether you have been fundraising or volunteering, Chester Zoo want to hear how you have prevented extinction. Visit www.chesterzoo.org/what-you-can-do/our-community to share your story.
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