|Deaf Owners of Scottish Wildlife Park Face Funding Challenges
From Katrina Tweedie, Sunday Mail, 11/13/11
The owners of a renowned wildlife park fear their animals will have to be put down as they desperately battle to raise £25,000 to survive the winter.
John Denerley and wife Kathryn, who are both deaf, have turned the Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park into a popular tourist attraction with more than 30,000 visitors a year.
It has a highly regarded conservation and breeding programme but the credit crunch and poor weather have seen visitor numbers drop and John fears the 27-acre park may not make it through another harsh winter.
If it closes, up to half of the animals – including endangered species such as maned wolf, lemurs, red pandas and lynx – may have to be put down.
Feeding and keeping more than150 creatures warm and paying vet bills costs over £1500 a week and the zoo urgently needs £25,000 to get them through the winter closure period.
John said: “If we can’t get funding then we won’t be able to feed the animals and we’ll need to look into sending them elsewhere.
“If we can’t find homes, we’ll have to put them down. It’s as brutal as that.”
Growing up, John, 43, was obsessed with animals and his heroes were David Attenborough and the legendary naturalist Gerald Durrell.
So when he and Kathryn, 45, bought the wildlife park almost a decade ago, it was a dream come true and they are thought to be the only deaf couple in the world running a zoo.
John uses British Sign Language, interpreted by Kathryn, who can speak, and the couple have three sons Cameron, 13, Winston, 12, and Hamish, nine, who all have perfect hearing.
After John and Kathryn took over the zoo, visitor numbers increased by 50 per cent and Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park is the only zoo in Europe to offer sign language tours.
The park has never been profit-making, just self-sufficient. They have applied for charitable trust status which, if granted, will allow them to fundraise and also reduce crippling VAT costs.
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