You read the book – now buy the zoo!

Friday 14th November 2014 12:00 am

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CAMPAIGNERS have launched a high-stakes bid to secure the future of Sparkwell's Dart-moor Zoo.

The zoo is launching a £1.6 million crowdfunding campaign to transform it into a charity to secure its future as a 'centre of excellence for education, conservation and research'.

In 2006 the Mee family bought the zoo to prevent the majority of the animals from being destroyed.

Since then, despite the release of the Hollywood film 'We Bought a Zoo' which was based on the bestselling book by Benjamin Mee, the threat to the zoo remains.

And now Mr Mee said he intends to buy out his family and turn the zoo into a charity - with help from the public.

Benjamin Mee said: 'Dartmoor Zoo has come a long, long way since 2006.

'We've worked hard to build up excellent relationships with other zoos and have been accepted onto several endangered breeding programmes like the Amur Leopard and Sumatran Tiger.

'We teach a diploma in animal management on site in partnership with Duchy College, have won awards, and been selected as part of a government campaign on using zoos as a public health resource for families next year.'

Mr Mee added: 'To say that I am excited about this is an understatement, it's a significant step towards fulfilling the dream of turning this place into a world class research centre for animal intelligence.

'All these things have just been possible as a business, but as a charity we would really thrive.

'Now is finally the time to buy the zoo from my family.

'I tried going to the banks for a conventional mortgage to buy the freehold and sign the site over to a charity. But after they had finished laughing, they said 'no'.

Charitable status is a zoos natural habitat. It's like releasing the zoo into the wild.'

Now Mr Mee is appealing to the public to help crowdfund the purchase of the zoo to turn it into a charity, secure the future of the animals, staff, students and volunteers – and concentrate on growing it as a world-class education and research centre.

He added: 'Our aspirations for the future are unashamedly ambitious – and will have a global impact.

'As well as developing our international conservation and education programs, we aim to establish a world class research centre in animal cognition, exploring animal consciousness to promote the rights and welfare of animals everywhere.

'But our project is also about regenerating people, using the platform of the zoo to encourage volunteering, training and education, from pre-school to post-graduate and beyond.'

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