The closure of businesses across the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 lockdown has made it difficult for zoos to sustain themselves. Many zoos have been requesting government aid to continue maintenance. A number of places have hinted at possible closure which could lead to animals being euthanised. Wild Planet Trust's Living Coasts in Devon is one of the first to announce that it will not reopen once the lockdown is over.
On their official website, Wild Planet Trust announced that the Living Coasts attraction will remain closed. According to the official statement, the zoo and aquarium had been struggling due to low footfall and the COVID-19 lockdown closure. The trust pointed out that the site in Torquay, Devon requires substantial maintenance before it can be opened as a public attraction. Unfortunately, the trust does not have the required funds to undertake the maintenance.
44 staff members working at the Living Coasts are at the risk of redundancy. Animals at the zoo and aquarium need to be re-homed due to the lack of funds required for their care. Penguins, sea lions, ducks, and a large variety of fish are some of the animals losing their homes.
Most of the inhabitants at the zoo are marine animals which require specialist facilities. Once the movement restrictions are lifted, the animals would be sent to their new homes. The trust assured that they work closely with facilities which could take in their animals so most of them would be getting new homes.
The question of releasing animals into the wild was also answered. Some animals could be released in accordance with the IUCN Reintroduction Specialist Group guidelines. Following veterinary checks, it could be possible for some animals to be released. However, it was also pointed out that most of the animals were born/hatched at the zoo so they would not be able to adjust to life in the wild.
As a last resort, some animals may have to be euthanised. However, the organisation believes that the scenario would be unlikely.
Following the permanent closure of Living Coasts, other sites owned by the Wild Planet Trust are under re-evaluation. The Paignton Zoo and Newquay Zoo could also be permanently closed if the trust cannot fund their upkeep.